Saturday, May 30, 2009

How We Learn About Science in the MSM

I saw this cartoon and it was so true I had to post it here (found at this site). Click to embiggen.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. I am here to do a Very Quick Post, which goes against my Grain as I like to take things Slow and Easy and really Give them the Attention they deserve. But my Humans are leaving Today to go to that Other Place they go to, the one with the Ocean. I think they call it Cape Cod. Their Suitcases are all packed and sitting in the Hallway and I am feeling Anxious about it. I really don't like when they go to this place, because it is Farther Away and they stay longer.

Oh well, That Nice Woman (I think my Female Human refers to her as Friend #2 here) is going to be Serving Me while I am awaiting their return. At least That Dog goes with them so she won't be here to plague Me.

I will Forego my usual News Roundup and just mention that, predictably, those Republicans are twisting their Tails in a Knot trying to figure out what they can say against the President's Supreme Court Nominee. They are trying out a number of Methods to criticize her, including the usual "Liberal Activist Judge" title. We shall see which one sticks, if any, and whether it Does them any Good. Unless the Democrats are totally Disloyal (something that does happen), their Majority should be able to get her confirmed.

I probably will not get an Opportunity to Use the Computer while the Humans are gone but my Female Human will be trying to Log On occasionally over the next Week.

With that, I wish you all a Great Week and will go take to my Bed and snort Catnip to drown my Sorrows.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It's been another week with a lot going on and I haven't been able to keep up. I think underneath, although I still have a lot of concerns about various issues, my motivation to comment on every event is somewhat less because I still have the feeling that finally, we have someone in the White House who actually knows what's going on and has ideas on how to fix stuff.

Sure, there are things I am not happy about, along with plenty that I am pleased with; but at least I know the president actually uses his brain, unlike the previous inhabitant of the White House.

Today, however, there are events that are too big to ignore. I've titled this post "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" because as always, there are positives and negatives happening at the same time.

First, the "Good" - President Obama has nominated New York's Sonia Sottomayor to the Supreme Court. I heard her speech on the way to work and thought she sounded extremely impressive and yet down to earth. Her background is just what the President was looking for: someone who would have a feel for how decisions affect people in the real world - someone with empathy, but with an unimpeachable background in the law.

Raised alone by her mother after her father died when she was only 9, she was educated at Princeton University (graduating summa cum laude) and got her law degree from Yale (was editor of the Yale Law Review). Her professional experience has been diverse and should give her an excellent perspective on the various cases that would come before her as a Supreme Court Justice. And on top of that, she is Hispanic and a woman, so the President has made good on his wish to make the Supreme Court more diverse and more like the people whose lives it will affect.

So what is "the Bad"? The Republicans, of course. According to the NY Times,

"Many conservatives came out fiercely against Ms. Sotomayor as soon her name was announced, denouncing her as liberal and promising Mr. Obama a tough nomination fight.

'The G.O.P. has to make a stand,' said Scott Reed, manager of the 1996 presidential campaign of Bob Dole. 'This is what the base and social conservatives really care about, and we need to brand her a liberal with some out-of-the-mainstream positions. Forget about cosmetics and ethnic heritage, and focus on her record.'"

But, thanks to the President's political skills, he has put them into an uncomfortable position. Opposing the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court would hurt them dearly with the Hispanic voters whose votes they will need to make any kind of a political comeback in the next elections.

"Matthew Dowd, another one-time adviser to Mr. Bush, said that in 2000, he calculated that Republicans needed to win 35 percent of Hispanics to beat Democrats. He said that given the steady increase in the number of Hispanic voters, he now believed Republicans needed to win a minimum of 40 percent to be competitive with Democrats.

As a result, he said, barring any revelation about Ms. Sotomayor’s background, Republicans could doom themselves to long-term minority status if they are perceived as preventing Ms. Sotomayor from becoming a judge."

Time will tell in which direction the Republicans will go. But be prepared to hear the words "liberal activist judge" a lot in the near future.

And last, "the Ugly."

As everyone already knows, today the California Supreme Court upheld the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage that had passed last November. However, the Court did say the 18,000 same-sex couples who were married before the ruling are still officially married.

The thing to keep in mind is that this ruling was not on the constitutionality of gay marriage, but on whether the process was appropriate to amend the constitution to ban it. As the linked article states,

"While gay rights advocates accused the court of failing to protect a minority group from the will of the majority, the justices said that the state's governing framework gives voters almost unfettered ability to change the California Constitution."

And therein lies the problem. Unlike other states, California is so dysfunctional that long ago the government gave up trying to decide anything and instead gave the power to the people to make major decisions - such as whether to raise taxes (people usually vote against additional taxes, surprisingly!) and, in this case, whether to allow gay marriages.

Paul Krugman recently wrote about the "state of paralysis" that California represents, in relationship to the economy.

"The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, a ballot measure that placed the state’s budget in a straitjacket. Property tax rates were capped, and homeowners were shielded from increases in their tax assessments even as the value of their homes rose.

The result was a tax system that is both inequitable and unstable. It’s inequitable because older homeowners often pay far less property tax than their younger neighbors. It’s unstable because limits on property taxation have forced California to rely more heavily than other states on income taxes, which fall steeply during recessions.

Even more important, however, Proposition 13 made it extremely hard to raise taxes, even in emergencies: no state tax rate may be increased without a two-thirds majority in both houses of the State Legislature. And this provision has interacted disastrously with state political trends."

Basically, California is leaving way too much up to the voters, who really are not qualified to decide intricate financial issues, and should also not be given the right to decide whether a group that is in the minority in the population deserves civil rights or not. If that were the case everywhere, we would probably still have slavery.

This was a constitutional matter, and the California Supreme Court had previously correctly used the state constitution to decide that gay marriage was a civil right. Unfortunately, the people of California, influenced unfairly by lots of advertising by the Mormon Church and others, decided otherwise.

William Bradley at the Huffington Post talks about the various factors that led up to the Proposition 8 debacle. In his article, he cites a previous proposition that upheld bigotry in California:

"Bringing it back to the example at hand, Californians in 1964 passed an initiative to block landmark "fair housing" legislation to end discrimination by landlords and property owners who refused to rent or sell to African Americans. The initiative, which amended the state constitution to empower discrimination, passed with a whopping 65% of the vote. But it was overturned three years later by the U.S. Supreme Court."

So there you have it - when it comes down to it, the only way we can finally ensure that the civil rights of our gay citizens are upheld is with a U.S. Supreme Court decision. A Supreme Court decision would render moot the whole question of Proposition 8, and would nullify the laws and amendments against same-sex marriage in other states.

The approval of President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, and any subsequent choices he may make for the Court, will be extremely important in ensuring that ultimately, the civil rights of all of our citizens are protected.

Right now there is not enough of a groundswell of public pressure to bring a case to the Supreme Court for a ruling on the subject of gay marriage. But the trend is growing daily in support of gay marriage, especially as younger voters become active.

As Frank Rich wrote in the Times on Sunday, despite his campaign rhetoric, President Obama has not yet fulfilled his promises to gay Americans, including the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. According to Rich,

"Obama has long been, as he says, a fierce advocate for gay equality. The Windy City Times has reported that he initially endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage when running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. The most common rationale for his current passivity is that his plate is too full. But the president has so far shown an impressive inclination both to multitask and to argue passionately for bedrock American principles when he wants to. Relegating fundamental constitutional rights to the bottom of the pile until some to-be-determined future seems like a shell game.

As Wolfson reminds us in his book 'Why Marriage Matters,' Dr. King addressed such dawdling in 1963. 'For years now I have heard the word "Wait," ' King wrote. 'It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." '

The gay civil rights movement has fewer obstacles in its path than did Dr. King’s Herculean mission to overthrow the singular legacy of slavery. That makes it all the more shameful that it has fewer courageous allies in Washington than King did."

Perhaps what is needed is a march on Washington in support of gay civil rights, as Dr. King led back in 1963 for African-American rights. Maybe then the parallels would be clearer to the President and to everyone else.

We are at a crossroads in America, just as we were in the 1960s. There is political division, wars, and unrest -- and civil rights are once again an important issue.

President Obama has the opportunity to remake America and ensure that it lives up to the lofty ideals on which it was founded. Let's hope he has the courage to support what he must know should be done.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Haiku Monday

Memorial Day
Was when I had planned to blog
On all kinds of things

I'd done other chores
For the first couple of days
So Monday was it!

Before I started
I had to plant some flowers
And do some more wash.

Time was flying by
But I knew I'd be blogging
In an hour or two.

But then the phone rang
My friend said "let's barbecue!
How 'bout 5 o'clock?"

So much for blogging;
It was too lovely a day
To waste with deep thought.

So friends all arrived
The mood was convivial;
We ate, drank and talked!

Before I knew it
It was eleven o'clock
And it's time for bed.

Yet another day
Has passed without a new post;
Bad Blogger am I!

Hope everyone else
Had as good a day as this!
Best wishes to all!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Progress Up North

On our brief trip to the Adirondacks on Saturday, we stayed right around the corner from our cabin instead of in our usual place in Schroon Lake, which is farther away. So as soon as we arrived, even though it was raining, we took a quick ride up to the cabin, to see if anything had been done since we were last there.

Imagine our surprise to find two huge trucks parked directly in front of the cabin! They were labeled "Parker Water Wells," hailing from East Poultney, Vermont. No one was there, of course - it was the weekend and 6:15 p.m. at that. We figured their presence meant that the well drilling is imminent. (Sure enough, when we got home we got an e-mail from our contractor saying the well would be drilled today, Monday).

We went back the next day when it was sunny and took some pictures. Here is the view of the cabin with the trucks in front of it, with our own Jeep dwarfed in comparison.

DH, engineer that he is, had to examine the machinery.

This is what the view looked like from our deck! That's me, enjoying the beautiful scene of a truck that will soon supply water to our cabin. Diva took it all in stride.
We also took a ride up to the top of Mount Defiance, which overlooks Lake Champlain and Ft. Ticonderoga. Here are a few views of Ft. Ticonderoga (directly below) and the scenery.

All in all, it felt as if we were away much longer than just one night. I think that's because even the ride up seems like vacation. Unlike the hectic drive up to Cape Cod on Route 95, the route to the Adirondacks, Route 87 (the Northway), is a scenic road. Once out of New Jersey the highway is surrounded by peaceful mountains and trees and there is little traffic, especially now.

The drive gives us the chance to ponder really deep questions and think about things we never think about. Here are a few examples of these conversations.

While listening to Sirius satellite radio's "Sixties on 6" station, we heard the old Herman's Hermits song, "Henry VIII I Am." After listening to the whole song from beginning to end, I had a revelation.

"Hey, do you realize, he's the 8th husband named Henry? And she's a WIDOW? I never thought of that before! He's probably going to die! She probably killed her previous 7 husbands!"

DH: "I think it may be like a reversal of the real Henry VIII - isn't he the one who killed all his wives?"

Me: "Oh you're right! It's symbolic! Of course! Why didn't I ever notice that?"

(Yes, we had this conversation without benefit of marijuana, in case anyone wondered.)

Another topic included:

Me: "You know those silo things by the barns? What do they put in them?"
DH: "Grain, I think."
Me: "How does it get in there?"
DH: "I think they pump it in."
(Leave it to him to know the mechanics of such a thing).

You can tell I'm not from the country.

Another topic requires a little background. In New York State all the bars seem to have some kind of state-run gambling game where you fill out little tickets with the numbers you want and there's a TV screen showing these numbers being picked - there is a "drawing" (done via computer) every so many minutes. They don't have these in New Jersey so it is always mesmerizing to sit in the local restaurant/bar in Whitehall, NY where we go, and watch these numbers on the screen. This prompted DH to ask,

"Back when gambling was illegal and the Mafia ran the numbers game, who decided what the 'official' number was that won, and how did they let people know?"

Another question for the ages. I wonder if I could Google it to find out the answer.

As you can see, since we don't strain our brains with really serious subjects on these little trips, we come back extremely rested.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Meanderings and some Haiku

It's been a stressful week here in Mauiville. My aunt, who was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago with dehydration, turned out to have a growth in her colon which is cancerous. I had to take her to the doctor to hear the news on Tuesday; he had given me a hint of what to expect when the biopsy results came in, so I kind of knew already that the news was bad. She took the news well - she'd had a similar diagnosis 20 years ago, was operated on, and was OK - but of course she was a lot younger then.

My aunt will need to undergo an operation again, if she is strong enough to withstand it. She is 88 and frail, so the outcome would be uncertain. I am hoping she can gain strength back after her illness (which was not caused by the growth). Then we can see whether she is able to undergo the operation, which would probably cure her if she can survive it.

My aunt has always been part of my life and it is hard to imagine the time when she will no longer be with me. Her sister, my mother, is two years older, yet my mother has always been the healthier one. At 90, she is doing well despite her pack a day smoking habit, whereas my aunt has heart failure, high blood pressure, and has always had digestive issues.

It seems as if my aunt always got the short end of the stick in life. My grandparents were not wealthy, and it was my mother who was sent to college; my aunt, who was less sure what she wanted to do in her life, ended up going to some kind of trade school where she was trained in occupational therapy. That didn't work out so well, as she was working with mental patients who were kind of violent, and after one of them knocked her down and broke her glasses, she left that career rather quickly. She then tried to join the WAVES during World War II but was discharged for health reasons shortly after she joined, after she had an allergic reaction to something and fainted.

She eventually found a good career working in a laboratory performing spectroscopy on precious metals and worked her way up to being the group supervisor, so she did finally find her niche.

My mother married and had me, and stopped working at her chosen career of journalism after that; my aunt, who never married, was the one with the career even though she didn't get the college education. She also was the daughter who ended up taking care of her parents in their old age.

When I was young I thought of my aunt as quite glamorous - unlike my mother, she had this career, she had a lot of friends, and used to travel a lot when she was younger. She was also willing to sit on the floor and play with me when I came over to my grandparents' house and was always a lot of fun. I loved going over there.

After she retired, she still kept busy with her church group, she played cards with friends, and did volunteer work. Now of course most of her friends have moved away to retirement communities, are living with grown children, or have passed away. She had to give up her house last year and move into the seniors apartment building my mother had moved into the year before, as taking care of the house was too much for her.

Now it seems her time may be running out, and it's hitting me rather hard. She is not always an easy person to deal with, as she has very strong opinions and tends to be rather contrary sometimes. But she has always been a fixture in my life and it will be hard to imagine her not being there. And she's always been very good to me.

It also makes me realize my mother will not be around forever either (not that I didn't know it, but we always tend to be in denial about these things). That's another thing that's hard to imagine.

I was going to write about President Obama's decision to begin the tribunals in Guantanamo again (disappointing, despite his reassurance that the prisoners would have expanded legal rights).

I am also concerned that he has decided to try to block the release the torture photographs from Iraq. Maybe his motives are correct, and that it would indeed inflame anti-American sentiments, but it is still a concern when he reverses his position on these issues. And we're still waiting for him to reverse "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

But I find despite these concerns, it has been hard to concentrate on them this week with everything else going on. So instead I've used my spare moments to play Scramble on Facebook...or sleep. I'm really good at sleeping, it's a great avoidance technique.

This weekend will be a busy one - after a neighborhood park cleanup we're heading up to the Adirondacks just for Saturday night, to get away and relax a bit. In the meantime, we have received the good news from our contractor that the painting will be done inside the cabin shortly and the well will be drilled soon as well. So by the time the summer really comes we may actually be able to stay in the cabin itself instead of paying to stay in a cabin nearby!

I'll close with a few haiku. Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Cheney is guilty
Of authorizing torture
We all know this now.

Nancy Pelosi
Knew about waterboarding
Way back in '03

She too is guilty
And so are many others
Where is the justice?

On to other news,
GM is closing dealers
And so is Chrysler.

Luckily for us
Our Jeep dealership survived
And will still be there.

And what of the Saabs?
There are two or three bidders
Who may buy the brand.

Times are really tough
For all the car companies
But some may survive.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. I'm finally being Allowed to Blog again. My Female Human has been using the Computer a lot but when I try to Remind her that it's my Turn to use it by Sitting in front of the Screen, she just pushes on me until I lie Down and then continues to Ignore My Needs.

This is a Picture my Male Human took of me and That Dog. Believe it or not, it was My Choice to jump up next to her. At the Time, she was sound asleep. I came over, Sniffed her Toe, determined she was Unconscious, and then jumped up next to her on the Couch. Unfortunately she started to Wake Up and as you can see, I had to keep my Eye on her to make sure she didn't Do Something I didn't Like.

Speaking of Dogs, I heard about a Very Old Dog the other day. Apparently the World's Oldest Dog (at this Time) is 21. It's a Dachshund. Here is a Picture of It with Its Owner.

However, the Oldest Dog Ever lived to be 29. Good Lord. I didn't think That Dog was going to be around THAT long to plague Me. I might as well Resign Myself though, in case she manages this degree of Longevity. Maybe I will Try to sit next to Her more Often and get Used to it.

On to Other Topics, since I find the idea of Dogs rather Repugnant. My Humans and two Friends of theirs are going to see the new Star Trek Movie tonight. It is Very Exciting for Them because they are Die-Hard Trekkies. Yes, I know, "Trekkers" is the more Acceptable Form of Descriptor for these Humans but Mine prefer Trekkies. They aren't actually Trekking anywhere, so how can they be Trekk-ers? Somewhere my Female Human has a Star Trek Communicator Badge. She will wear it if she can find it. But on the Other Hand, they didn't have those during the Original Series, so perhaps that would be Inappropriate.

All of the Reviews have been Fantastic (see the link Above for an example of one in the local New Jersey paper), so they are going with Confidence that it will be Particularly Awesome. The Main Thing is to have the Characters, and the Optimistic Vision right, and it sounds as if they Got It. As a Cat, I was always fascinated with those Tribble things. They looked like Good Eating to Me. I know you are probably Surprised I remember Tribbles since I was born in 2002, well after the Original Series ended. But of course my Humans have the Complete Original Series on VHS tape (yes, time to replace with DVDs). So I have seen All of the Episodes.

My Female Human will no doubt Blog about the Movie after she sees it.

In other Animal-Related News, Australia is shooting 6000 Kangaroos to keep their Population Under Control. Surely there must be a Better Way. My Humans have actually Patted Kangaroos on the Head in a Wildlife Park near Adelaide. They are very Mellow Creatures. I understand they also Taste Good. At least they should Use the Meat to help the Homeless or something. I guess it's kind of like Deer here in New Jersey: Just too Many of Them.

So what about More Serious Subjects, you may ask Me. I know, I know, we have been a bit Lax about keeping Up with Things. There have been a lot of Things going on in Real Life, so it's not always Easy to put on our Thinking Caps here and come up with Serious Posts. But, as a Cat, I know I have a Lot to Live Up To, so I will give it a Shot.

First Subject is the So-Called Swine Flu, which should really be called the Swine-Bird-Human Flu. Some people are calling it H1N1, which is a Lot Fairer to the Pig Farmers; some Humans were afraid to eat Pork, which of course is Silly because of Course it isn't Spread by Eating it.

Latest Reports show that it is Continuing to Spread, with over 2000 cases in the U.S. Alone. Luckily it seems to be acting pretty much like Plain Old Garden-Variety Flu. Only People who are Weak or Sickly are Dying of it - which they do of Plain Old Flu as well. However, there is still Concern that this Strain could come back again in the Fall and be More Scary. So of course they are Working on a Vaccine for it. In Britain they have made a Breakthrough that may lead to a Vaccine that would work on all of the Strains of the Virus.

Overall it has been a Case of Much Ado about something that wasn't All That Bad. Researchers have found that this Flu doesn't have the same Traits as the 1918 Flu or the Dreaded Bird Flu, at least Not Yet.

Personally, I am just Glad that Cats don't get it. Because of course that is what is Most Important to Me.

Moving On. Remember when the Plane used as Air Force One flew low over the Statue of Liberty for a Photo Op a Week or two Ago, and scared the Catnip out of Everyone in Manhattan and its Environs? Well, the Human, Louis Caldera, who Approved the Stunt, has Resigned. He Apparently didn't Realize how it would make People Feel to see the Plane flying so Low. The other little Tidbit you can find in the Linked Article: The whole Photo Shoot cost the Taxpayers over $300,000. What WAS this Moron thinking?

Of course, a News Roundup would not be Complete without Mentioning Last Week's Bombshell that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is Retiring, giving the President Obama a chance to Replace him. The Souter Human was appointed by, of all People, George W. Bush's father, George H.W. Bush. Ironically, Souter turned out to be more Liberal than Conservative. While the Timing of his Retirement makes it look Suspiciously as if he didn't want to give George W. a Chance to replace him with some Right-Wing Nutjob, he probably won't admit it. In reality, it may just be he wants to go Hang Out in his Cabin in New Hampshire and Enjoy Himself, and this seemed the Right Time. OK, Maybe.

In the Meantime, President Obama used the word Empathy as something he'd be looking for in a new Justice and got the Right-Wingers in an Uproar. Heaven Forbid a Supreme Court Justice might actually have Feelings and Care about People whose lives they are Affecting. As Susan Nielsen of the Oreganian says,

"To liberals, empathy is secret code for 'not a right-wing jerk.'

To conservatives, empathy is secret code for 'soft-headed liberal social worker.'"

As she rightly Points Out, there are Worse Things than Empathy in a Supreme Court Justice.

Of course, there are all Kinds of Speculations going on as to Who He Will Pick. Will it be a Woman? A Latino/Latina? A Gay person? Whoever it is, let's Hope the President finds a Good One who will Uphold the Principles on which this Country was Founded. The Color of their Skin or their Gender or Orientation isn't as Important as What They Believe and How They Will Rule on Important Civil Rights Issues. Clarence Thomas proves that.

The Other little Bombshell that Blew Up recently was Arlen Specter moving over to the Democratic Side of the Aisle. Personally, I don't give it a lot of Credence. I think he just wanted to get Re-Elected. Sure he was a Moderate Republican compared to the Other Bozos, but he was a Democrat before That, and now he's a Democrat Again. This is a Clear Example of a Label that Means Nothing. He will still vote the way Arlen Specter always votes. However, to keep him Happy, the Democrats are giving him the Chairmanship of a Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, in hopes he will Vote Their Way on Important Issues if he is Satisfied.

We shall See. If some Marauding Tomcat comes into your Yard and you Give him your Mouse so he won't Attack You, the next thing you know, he wants Another Mouse. It may be a Futile Process.

So, that's it for This Week. This is Baxter, signing off from Bloomfield, New Jersey, where the Cats are all Sleek, the Mice are all Fat, and the Catnip runs Wild. (If Only. I think I'll go Do some Catnip to make my Fantasy seem more Realistic).

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Back From the North

Sorry I haven't been out and about in the Blog World this past weekend. We spent the weekend up in the Adirondacks visiting our cabin and dropping off a bunch of appliances we bought so the contractor can have them installed for us: a propane-run instant hot water heater, a propane wall heater, propane lights (they're like gaslights, and will likely be a good way to get light without needing electricity), and a shower apparatus to install in the bathroom.

When we first made our way up the gravel road to the cabin, we were surprised to find that a fairly large tree had fallen across the road - directly before the driveway to our property. So we had to cart all the heavy boxes up the side of the hill to reach the cabin instead of parking directly next to it! It wasn't until we'd gotten everything up there that we realized the obvious solution: We should have driven the Jeep up the hill. Sure enough, it went right up with no problem, even though it was a steep hill and had no gravel or anything to make it easier. We are still not thinking like Jeep owners, I guess!

Giggles over at Wits and Wiggles was talking about getting back in touch with her inner "nature girl" and I must say that I am feeling the same way whenever we go up to the Adirondacks. When I was young I was very into birdwatching and my mother was always showing me wildflowers in the woods. Living in semi-urban New Jersey for my whole adult life, it was harder and harder to find anything worth looking at. Now that I'm able to go to a location that is rich with wildlife, I'm getting back into what I enjoyed so much when I was younger.

This was another good visit in terms of seeing and hearing interesting wildlife. On our way up the main road, we saw an actual porcupine waddling along the side of the road! He looked up at us and started to head into the woods before I could get out my camera. He must have been somewhat alarmed by our presence because his quills started to rise on his back. Neither of us had ever seen a real porcupine before!

Then while we were sitting out on our deck having lunch we heard a strange call in the woods. It went on for quite awhile. We couldn't tell if it was an animal or a bird. After Googling "coyote calls" and "wolf howls" on the Blackberry I decided it was neither of those. When we got home I was able to do a more thorough search and found that the spooky sound was a Barred Owl. Go here to listen to what we heard. (Go to the Barred Owl and click on the link called "typical"). I was surprised because it was still daylight and I didn't realize owls were out during the day.

I also came across some great wildflowers - I saw a Jack in the Pulpit and also a whole bunch of Trillium. I even managed to take some pictures of it without them turning out all blurry. Here is one of them:

Here is another attempt at nature photography - the new ferns popping up among the leaves around the pond:

While I was walking along the roadway, I saw an Ovenbird, but didn't get a picture of that. I am amazed that anyone can manage to get great pictures of birds. It is a real skill. Of course, they probably have better cameras with very close-up lenses, unlike my point and shoot variety.

Speaking of Nature, we discovered that Something has been destroying trees around our cabin. Check this out:
This was a perfectly good tree. Now it has three huge holes in it. There are also several farther up in the tree on the other side. After seeing this, we noticed a bunch of other trees in the woods with similar damage, some done recently and some that was obviously from previous years. We can only conclude that it is caused by our friends, the impressive, beautiful, Pileated Woodpeckers, which I decided after Googling "Pileated Woodpecker Damage." (See below - note pile of wood chips like ours).

I was so thrilled to see them when we were up there last fall. Now I'm starting to think of them as a menace to the forest!

So much for Nature! Now I'll move on to our other adventures.

During this visit we also put the Jeep to another test. First we took it around to the other end of the Jeep trail that runs past our cabin again. Since we'd done it last time, I was feeling very brave. I even got out and took a picture of one of the somewhat challenging parts of the road. Here is the stretch of road, followed by the Jeep making its way up:

We then decided to do something even more daring. We turned down a side trail off of that road, and headed toward Lake George. We didn't even know whether it went all the way through. As we went along, it got less and less like a road and more and more like a bunch of rocks strewn along a narrow ledge; the hill sloped steeply away from the edge of the trail. At any moment I expected the trail to end abruptly with a bunch of trees and couldn't even imagine trying to back up! I also envisioned tumbling over the side of the cliff to my right if the Jeep tipped too much going over a rock.

I didn't get any pictures of this road. I was too busy holding on for dear life, closing my eyes and calling on the Diety to protect us. Even Diva was nervous - she was panting the whole time!

We did finally make it through to the road that goes along Lake George - and lived to tell the tale. And, the Jeep made it through with no problem! I guess that's what they're made for! I even made up a new motto for Jeep, based on the fact that the GPS map was showing no road where we were driving. "Just because the road ends doesn't mean you have to stop!"

I'll end with a few more pictures of the cabin and the surroundings. It was wonderful to be away from it all. We didn't even watch television while we were up there this time. However, we still got our newspapers and learned that Souter plans to retire from the Supreme Court. In the next post, it is Baxter's turn to do a news roundup so we'll get back into current events then.

Here is the cabin with its new green metal roof:

The new slate underneath the woodstove, and the new pine flooring that was installed. Now it just needs to be stained.

Birches reflecting in the pond.

Scenery along the Jeep trail.Views of Lake George.The little public beach on Lake George that is nearest to our cabin.