Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. I bet you didn't realize it, but I can actually Type with my Back to the computer. Aren't I Talented?

It's been Awhile since I Graced this Blog with my Presence. It's certainly not My fault, though. My Humans keep going Away and Leaving Me here alone, and it puts Me in a Bad Mood and I don't feel like Blogging. But I thought it was About Time I put My Two Cents' worth in. So here I am.

First of All, this whole Debt Ceiling Debacle is just Ridiculous, in This Cat's Opinion. I have never seen such Folderol in my Life. Here President Obama is willing to give the GOP practically Everything they want, including Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid - much to the Dismay of his Supporters - with the small catch that they have to Agree to - horrors - some Revenue raising! And we're not talking about a Huge Tax Increase here. We're talking about getting rid of Loopholes, and Oil subsidies, and taxing things like Corporate Jets.

But no. The Republicans have all Signed some kind of Pledge not to raise Taxes NO MATTER WHAT, and they are Cutting Off their Noses to Spite their Face. I have never seen such Stubborn Humans in My life. They're Stubborner than a Cat being stuffed into a Cat Carrier to go to the Vet. (And believe Me, that's Stubborn. Getting Me into my Carrier is a two-human job!).

However, the guy who got them to sign the Pledge did leave some wiggle room for the GOP to let the Bush Tax Cuts expire and not have it "Count" as a Tax Increase. Perhaps that is the Way this can still be Solved and the GOP could Save Face. Time will Tell. (Seems to Me I remember another President who said "No new taxes! Read my lips!" and he raised Taxes, because he had to. And he didn't get Re-elected. So this might work out for Good in the End if the GOP loses some Seats in the House or Senate as a result of any Agreement!)

So, I am crossing my Paws and hoping for Some Kind of Resolution before the Debt Ceiling goes up and turns the Country into a Pawn Shop of some kind. I'm not quite Sure what would Happen but it isn't Good. They say a deal may be Imminent, but I'll Believe it when I see it.

Seems as if there isn't much else New to talk about these days. It's Hot. Very Hot. My Humans aren't even Outside on the Deck today, as they usually like to be in the Summer. I'm just as Glad, because that means they are Indoors with Me, which of course is a Better Place anyway. I'm hanging out in the Air Conditioning upstairs, and am Quite Comfortable. I think I heard my Humans talking about going to see the new Harry Potter movie later on. That may Cool them Down nicely.

So, with that, I will Sign Off, and wish you a Cool Weekend. Hang out in the A/C or in a pool, and keep your Catnip dry!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Haiku Tuesday

After a whole week up at the cabin in cool springlike weather, coming back to New Jersey was a shock. It's mid-July. It's hot. It's humid. The only good thing is, there is a nice breeze. In fact, it was such a nice breeze yesterday, apparently, that two branches broke off and fell in my neighborhood - one on the sidewalk around the corner and one on our front porch steps!

The brinksmanship between President Obama and John Boehner slogs along. I think the President is playing it right for a change - actually holding out and saying that he won't accept any budget that doesn't include revenue, i.e., tax, increases. I just hope he doesn't fold at the last minute. At some point the Republicans will have to either give in and accept some tax increases, even if only in the form of closing loopholes, or else they will take the blame for the economic mess that would follow if the debt ceiling isn't raised.

But in the summer heat it's hard to get worked up about anything in politics. In the back of my heat-drugged mind I have questions: "If the government defaults on its debts, does that mean investments in treasury bills will tank?" "Do I have any investments that would be stable if this happened?" but I can't bring myself to think any further than that or bother to Google something to find out. Maybe I don't want to know. After all, what can I do about it anyway?

So, I decided today would be a good day for some haiku. As part of my resolution to get back to blogging, haiku is always a good way to get over any writer's block I may have! So....

Summer has arrived.
Cicadas are chattering
High in the treetops.

The dogs are panting
Diva's too hot to walk far
We sit on the deck.

The news is dismal
Haven't read the New York Times
Or the Star Ledger.

Budget talks drag on
Boehner meets with Obama
No progress is made.

My computer's on
My MiFi is blinking green
Where shall I go next?

Facebook is sluggish
The blog world is beckoning
Time to go explore.

I often wonder what we ever did without the internet? Can anyone remember? And don't say we read, because I still read. But I find the world has opened up and become so much more accessible since the advent of the internet. It would be very hard to go back to the past.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

It's About Time...UPDATED with pictures!

Well, another month has sped by…and “the 4th of July crept up on little cat feet,” as Jean Shepherd paraphrased in his wonderful tale, The Legend of Ludlow Kissel.

I have to admit, I have become a Bad Blogger. Who would have thought that retiring would mean LESS writing of blogs instead of more? It’s just as the old adage says, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Or in this case, a working person. I’ve even been lazy about checking e-mail these days.

It hasn’t been all sloth and lethargy, though. I’ve been doing some writing for a local blog, covering events in my town, and perhaps I have been expending my writing energy that way, leaving none left for my own blog.

Plus, DH, his dad, my aunt and I all went to Cape Cod during the second week in June – followed by my coming down with a dreadful, energy-sapping, soul-sucking cold that actually took two weeks to go away. It included a consumptive cough, a head cold, and a temporary loss of the ability to taste things, which was certainly not a pleasant way to spend the middle of June. (Luckily that sense has returned, along with my appetite, something that is rarely out of commission under ordinary circumstances).

I can’t say nothing happened in the past month worth talking about – far from it. Of course, the most important event of all was the recent passage of the gay marriage bill by the New York State Legislature, and immediate signing thereof by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had pushed so hard for the law to pass. The news of the law’s passage came late Friday night last weekend, when we were up at our cabin in the Adirondacks.

I was thrilled that this finally happened – especially in New York, which is so tied in with the gay rights movement, starting back in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. It’s about time, New York! Now if only my home state of New Jersey would follow suit. Of course, our governor, Chris Christie, in his usual pleasant way, has said he’d veto any effort by the legislature to pass a gay marriage bill in his state. Remind me again how we ended up electing this guy? It certainly wasn’t a choice I made. I think I’ll start thinking of New York as my home state. It feels better.

It was inspirational to see Governor Cuomo go about his efforts to push through the bill. According to columnist Maureen Dowd, who recently interviewed the governor,

"The governor says he sold the marriage-equality bill as a matter of conscience and didn’t try to buy off any recalcitrant lawmakers with promises about roads or bridges.

He said Senator Roy McDonald, a Republican who grew up in public housing and represents a somewhat conservative district in the Albany area, told him that he wanted to vote for the bill because 'it’s the right thing. I believe my God is a God of love and acceptance.'"

The four Republicans who voted "yes" deserve a great deal of credit for bucking their party's line and doing the right thing.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg gets some credit as well, as he expended a lot of political clout on its behalf.

It’s too bad President Obama can’t get any further in his “evolving” viewpoint on the subject and come out strongly in favor of it. He still says it’s an issue best left to the states, and while there may be some political reasoning behind this, that wouldn’t stop him from at least saying honestly what he believes in. (Note to the President: “states’ rights” was the excuse given for ongoing segregation as well.) And now that 53% of Americans approve of gay marriage, the tide of popular opinion is starting to turn - not that people’s intrinsic rights as human beings should be decided by popular opinion in the first place.

It’s possible that leaving it to the states for awhile would still be a wise policy, until enough states passed gay marriage or civil union laws to reach a tipping point where the Supreme Court would be more likely to rule in favor of gay marriage.

But in the meantime, federal laws do not recognize those state-endorsed marriages, depriving spouses of federal pensions and social security benefits from their partners, and marital law in general will be a mess once people start moving around the country and try to get their marriages (or divorces) recognized in other states, as John Schwartz in the NY Times discussed in today’s paper.

And if the Administration is ostensibly no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act, why doesn’t President Obama use his bully pulpit, as Cuomo did his, to try to get Congress to repeal it? I can only hope he is waiting till after the next election, when he no longer has to worry about being re-elected, before pushing for this. But if he wants to win that election, he’d do better by supporting his base, which includes many gay rights advocates, than kowtowing to a conservative populace that won’t vote for him anyway. Just once I'd like him to do something bold about this issue, which should be a matter of conscience for everyone, not a political calculation.

In other June news, Republican candidates continued to come out of the woodwork, but I am not paying much attention to them at this point. Wake me up next year when we have some idea of which way the wind is blowing. Right now the group includes rightwing ideologues like Michelle Bachman, perpetual candidates like Ron Paul and now Newt Gingrich; and a range of more mainstream candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, who are stepping all over themselves trying to be more rightwing so the primary voters will vote for them.

Then there's the botched rape case against the former IMF director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. At first it all seemed so simple: Aging lecherous Frenchman rapes innocent immigrant just trying to make a life for herself in the United States. Turns out she wasn't so innocent, had some unsettling ties to drug dealers, and had a history of lying to the government when seeking asylum a few years earlier. Her stories were inconsistent and her credibility damaged. So now Strauss-Kahn is leaving his house arrest and the case is in disarray. But the question remains: Just because she's a liar, do we know for sure he's not a rapist?

So, enough of all that...I will just concentrate on what we’ve been up to the past month. Our annual spring trip to the Cape was a big success. My aunt came with us this time and stayed in the cottage my mother always stayed in. She hadn’t been up to the Cape in about 15 years, so was happy to finally get back there. Her 18-year-old cat had just had to be put to sleep, and the trip helped get her mind off that. And, in fact, if she still had the cat, she might not have felt comfortable going away for a week, so it all worked out for the best in some ways. Amazingly, we had wonderful, warm, sunny, clear weather for 5 of the 7 days we were there, and even the other two days were just partly cloudy.

We did all the usual Cape things: went out for lobster, sat on the bay beach not far from our cottages, took a ride to Provincetown. We also spent a lot of time just relaxing on the serene grounds of the cottages, looking out at the pond.

I had a few gratifying chats with the lovely woman who is the owner of the cottages we stay at, a staunch Democrat who was a supporter of Barack Obama before I had even decided who to support in the primaries. Now she asked me, somewhat wistfully, "Do you think he can survive the haters? The Tea Partiers?" (We were there not long after the most recent kerfluffle about his birthplace.) I assured her I thought that wasn't going to be his problem, but that he should do more to support his own base. She agreed, saying she wasn't always happy with everything he's done, but continues to support him nevertheless. I think a lot of Democrats would agree with that sentiment. But I'm not sure about the indpendents, and there will his problem in 2012 if things don't improve.

Diva and Angel had a great time at the Cape also. Diva, as usual, loved her swimming sessions in the pond. We tried to get Angel to go in, but she apparently is not really a swimming-style of dog. She did go in up to her shoulders and at one point took off swimming toward a school of ducks (do ducks travel in schools? Herds? Bevies?). Her prey drive is stronger than her dislike of swimming, apparently.

Here are pictures of Diva and Angel, close up. In the second one you can see Diva is getting impatient with picture-taking and revving up her "demand bark." This picture definitely shows the difference in their personalities!

And a nice portrait of Angel lying in the grass near the deck of the cottage.

My aunt reading with Diva sprawled in front of her.

The ducks in the pond were very bold; one mama duck kept trying to come up to our cottage when we were sitting outside, followed by her babies. She kept coming even as both dogs went nuts barking at her. We kept having to get up and shoo her away. Someone who was previously in that cottage must have been feeding her!

DH’s dad had a good time too – he always does. We went twice to his favorite restaurant, and he ate lobster in all forms at every meal, including baked stuffed, steamed, in the form of a lobster salad roll, and more.

We had a low-key Father’s Day; just had Dad up for a pancake breakfast out on the deck. By that time my cold had improved enough that I was functional and able to be a hostess! Here's a portrait of DH and his dad and Dad's "grandchildren."

Now comes the real “cabin season.” We are finally getting warmer weather, after a long, cool, rainy spring. Even as recently as last weekend the weather was so cool at night up at the cabin that a fire in the woodstove was needed at least once a day to take the chill off.

Now it’s finally warmer, so we’re using the outdoor firepit out on the deck for our fires in the evening. But even still, the weather is unpredictable - yesterday, clear blue skies and sunny; today, thunderstorms, clouds and rain. But even then it is peaceful and beautiful at the cabin, and better than being in the hustle and bustle of suburban New Jersey. The dogs both love it here and like to lounge around on the deck and relax, looking out at the woods and occasional wildlife. Angel, who is so over-reactive to every human-generated noise at home, is calm here. Nature doesn’t trigger her alarm.

We’ve planted a miniature raised garden here at the cabin, using bricks that were left lying around by the previous owner. Our crops include basil, rosemary, and oregano. We just extended this little garden and will now plant some beans to see if we can get a small crop of string beans. Plus we bought two patio tomato plants that we’re hoping will survive our absences long enough to yield some home grown tomatoes. Surprisingly, nothing seems to be eating our herb garden. It will be interesting to see if string beans are another matter.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, and I don’t know whether we will participate in any local festivities or not. Before we came up to the cabin we went with friends to the annual county display of fireworks in our local park, so we had our fix already. Up here, a couple of years ago before we had our own cabin, we stayed over in Schroon Lake and sat outside and watched their annual 4th of July parade go by, and later sat on the beach at the lake being eaten by mosquitoes and watched the fireworks there. But that’s kind of far away. So tomorrow may be another quiet day here…but that’s fine with me!

Angel by the pond - she is enjoying the country life.

Hope everyone has a happy, safe and fun Fourth! I'm posting this without pictures but will update tomorrow - when the sluggish internet connection here might be better - with pictures of the dogs and more!