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Mauigirl's Meanderings



A 60-something Baby Boomer's views on politics, pets and life.



Updated: 2018-02-08T17:20:52.809-05:00

 



Day 166 and Counting

2018-02-08T17:20:53.059-05:00

Source: Getty ImagesWell, it's been a long 8 months since the election, and an even longer 5-1/2 months since Trump officially became president.It's been even worse than we thought it would be. I think some of us hoped his whole campaign was an act to get elected and that afterward he'd show that he wasn't quite the hateful right-wing bigot he had seemed when on the campaign trail.But he immediately went to work showing he meant every bit of it. It all started with the appointment of his transition team and closest aides; then his inauguration speech, which was a vile and dark denunciation of the current state of the country. He then went on to appoint the worst of the worst as cabinet members, as well as doling out key positions to his immediate family members.With the exception of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who seems to retain a modicum of integrity and actual competence in comparison to the rest, those he appointed to cabinet posts are all from some Bizarro World where they embody the complete opposite of what their department is supposed to support.Betsy DeVos, champion of charter schools and school vouchers, for Department of Education; Jeff Sessions, a man with white supremacist ties, for the Attorney General, leading the Department of Justice; Rick Perry, who famously wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy - if he could have remembered the name - as Secretary of Energy; and worse yet, longtime EPA critic Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who is already doing everything he can to roll back as many regulations as possible.And that's not all. Now we have Tom Price, a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, as head of Health & Human Services; and Ben Carson (who outright said he wasn't qualified for a cabinet position despite having run for President) as Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, a topic in which he has absolutely no experience. I could go on. But you already know all that anyway.The one bright spot is the uprising on the left, now known as The Resistance, that happened immediately after his inauguration, starting with the Women's Marches all over the world. As soon as we heard there was to be a Women's March on Washington, several friends and I immediately made plans to go. As everyone knows now, the march was so large that the members couldn't even actually march - the area was full all the way to the Washington Monument. We were tucked into a packed street next to the Air and Space Museum. Despite the crowds, it was a calm and peaceful demonstration of what "Democracy looks like," as one of the chants pointed out.Then came the first Trump travel ban that spurred thousands to protest at airports and elsewhere. Then there was the march to support Science, and many others, demanding he release his taxes, be impeached, etc.This is something I don't remember seeing happen under any other president since the Vietnam War. The response to the election of this self-aggrandizing, petty dictator has been visceral. And women are leading a lot of it. Part of that is our fear of having our rights taken away, part of it is the anger about the misogyny that played at least some part of the vilification of Hillary Clinton by both the right and by Sanders supporters from the left. Part of it is just plain disgust that a man who once bragged about grabbing women "by the pussy" actually got elected. And the fact that no matter how vile he is, how inappropriate and unpresidential his tweets are, nothing seems to matter to the Republican Congress or the voters who supported him. The frustration is all-consuming.The endless speculation and drip-drip-drip of the administration's ties to Russia, and the possibility of collusion on the part of the Trump team with the verified Russian interference in our election, have just spurred further resistance. Trump firing Comey, reminiscent of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, fueled the fire and deepened the suspicions that there is something big to be discovered that Trump doesn't want us to find out.Special counsel Robert Muelle[...]



President-Elect Trump

2016-11-19T14:16:03.636-05:00

Who would have believed two years ago that this could even happen? Well, it has. And there were a lot of reasons for it.First of all, no one took him seriously at first. The media loved him because he got them ratings, so they kept showing all his outrageous speeches and his big rallies without criticizing their content or calling him out on his lies. Democrats didn't take him seriously. Pundits didn't take him seriously. And neither did I.I had been aware of Trump for 25+ years, especially since I live in the Metro NY area. But I never really paid any attention to him, even when he was bloviating about Obama not being born in the U.S. I mean, who cares what a reality TV star who runs casinos and builds gaudy towers thinks about the President? I never even watched his Apprentice shows, not even once. I just ignored the guy as someone who was not worthy of attention.Well, as it turned out, he was. And in a very bad way.As for the Democrats, they had a three-way race in the primaries that the media narrowed immediately to Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton, totally ignoring Martin O'Malley, who, in the brief moments he had to comment during their primary debates, actually sounded like a decent candidate. I had not originally been a fan of Hillary Clinton, as I felt she had way too much baggage and the Republicans hated her. So I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary.Then came the nominations - and it became Trump vs. Hillary. In watching their conventions, I felt it was obvious that Hillary had the advantage. Her convention was full of hope and positivity, while Trump's was dark and foreboding. Didn't we learn that Reagan beat Carter in 1980 because Carter had spoken of the "malaise" in America, while Reagan offered that sunny vision of  "a shining city on the hill"? I assumed history would repeat itself. No one wants to think America is no longer great, and believe a dark vision of the country that only Trump could save, surely.Sure, there were some stumbles - Hillary didn't campaign much in August, devoting a lot of her time to fundraising; and then she had that bout with pneumonia in September. But she bounced right back with three solid debate performances, where she seemed to  best Trump in each one. Her poll numbers rose again and I was feeling confident she would do well in the election.Then came the Comey announcement about the discovery of new emails "pertinent to" the FBI investigation discovered on Anthony Weiner's laptop, putting her on the defensive again and giving red meat to the Right. Nine days later Comey said "nothing to see here after all," and moved on. But probably by then the damage was done.On election night, Trump won the electoral college and thereby the Presidency.Then came all the recriminations and the blame. The polls were wrong. Comey did it. Wikileaks did it. The Russians hacked it. It was the DNC's fault for cheating Bernie out of the nomination.The media was complicit by giving Trump too much air time and touting false equivalencies between his flaws and Hillary's. The Democrats didn't turn out in sufficient numbers. There was an underground white working-class rebellion everyone had missed. Clinton's campaign hadn't focused enough on states like Wisconsin or Michigan. They took African Americans and Hispanics for granted. Trump supporters were voting against their own self-interests. Bernie supporters refused to support Hillary. And so it goes.All of these factors came into play and led to the result that most thinking people hadn't believed could happen. America voted in a president who has no knowledge of how government works, knows nothing about policies - neither foreign nor domestic - has spouted various stances on every issue imaginable and has no actual moral core. However, his campaign was run by Steve Bannon, who headed up Breitbart news as it became a vehicle for the "alt-right" movement, and who has now been chosen as Trump's strategist in the White House. He picked Mike Pence, a far right religious conservative whose policies as governor[...]



A Sad Goodbye to Baxter

2016-07-16T18:55:09.088-04:00

Hello Blog Friends. It is with great sadness that I must report that Political Blogger Extraordinaire and Cat-About-the-House Baxter passed away suddenly in April. He had numerous health issues, from an overactive thyroid to what we think was inflammatory bowel disease, which was mitigated by Prednisilone - but that caused diabetes. So he was getting two pills and a shot of insulin, twice a day, for the previous six months, and was doing pretty well, until one evening he just collapsed in the upstairs hallway. He went into a coma and died the next morning after spending the night on our bed. We didn't take him to the vet as we could tell the time was near, and didn't see the sense in stressing him out with a vet visit in the middle of the night. He was 15.He had a good long life, of course, but we always want a longer time with our furry family members. It's strange to no longer have a cat. And given  our dog Angel thinks cats are a type of snack, we probably can't have another cat as long as we have Angel.Diva is now close to 15 as well, but thankfully is in good health except for arthritis. She is still as demanding as ever and she and Angel are best friends and both sleep on the bed with us now that Baxter is gone. (Angel used to have to sleep downstairs and Baxter and Diva shared our bed with us  before). Here they are both giving me the stink-eye about something. Angel (right) learned how to do this from Diva, of course.So, sadly, there will be no more blogs from Baxter. He had started his last entry back in February and never finished it. But, for old times' sake, I am leaving the unfinished version here below. It's interesting to see what was happening 5 months ago and to realize things have only gone downhill since then!BAXTER's LAST POST:Baxter here.Well, here I am Again. I took a Break for awhile to see how Things Worked Out. And here we are in mid-February and Things are Just as Weird as ever.Donald Trump is continuing to Lead the Republicans in their Primary race, which I find Unbelievable.My Female Human says her now-deceased Mother would be Spinning in her Grave at the idea of President Trump. Her Mother was Amazed that Ronald Reagan became President. "Only in America," she would say, "could an ACTOR become President." She should see what's Happening now!And worse yet, in Second Place is that Cruz guy; he makes my Fur stand on end. He's the one who some believe has been Anointed by God to be the next President. And oh yeah - his Dad is one of them.To Me, those Overtly Religious Types are really the Scariest of all. Now, you know we Cats don't hold much Truck with Religion. Yes, there is Ceiling Cat. But Ceiling Cat kind of minds His own Business. Ceiling Cat doesn't expect us to Worship Him all the time (except for an Occasional Offering of a Dead Mouse or something). And certainly we aren't Required to have Specific Beliefs or to kill Other Cats if they don't Believe in Ceiling Cat. Basically we Cats can do Whatever we want and Nobody Butts into Our Business.But some of these Religious Types who call themselves "Christians" (not to be confused with Real Christians who try to live Life by the Golden Rule, as instructed by the actual Christ that Humans call Jesus), seem to think they should Rule the World. In Fact, this Cruz fellow is part of a Sect called Dominionists, who actually believe the United States should be run as a Christian Nation and that Biblical law trumps Civil law. In Other Words, he wants the United State to become a Christian Theocracy. Now I find that Highly Ironic, considering these Types of People are the ones that are So Afraid of Muslim Theocracy (i.e., Shariah Law) becoming the Law of the Land. Pray tell, what is the Difference?Then we Get Down to Marco Rubio. This guy is just Too Young and doesn't really Know What He's Doing yet. Give him another ten years maybe. He was supposed to be the Big Deal among the Republicans, before Trump came along and Blew that idea out of the Water.Oh, and Jeb Bush - I think the Genes we[...]



A Cat's Eye View: In it for the Long Haul

2015-10-29T14:11:38.400-04:00



Baxter here. I am Complaining because there are Too Many Republicans. Here at My House, we were Thinking of Maybe watching the Republican "Debate" but in the End could not Bear to do it. How can there be any Sense made out of ten people answering Stupid Questions for Two Hours. What kind of Substantive Conversation can be had?

The Worst Thing is, there isn't even One Candidate that would make a Good President out of the Bunch of them. I don't know What this Country is coming to. And I think those with No Support Whatsoever (I'm looking at YOU, Chris Christie!) should Drop Out and let the other Bozos get more Air Time so Everyone can see what Idiots they all are.

Then on the Democratic side, there is the whole Hillary vs. Bernie Problem. Hillary supporters say Bernie can't Win so people should be Rooting for Hillary. They say don't Waste Your Vote on Bernie because he Can't Win. Bernie supporters, on the Other Hand, say Hillary is as Bad as the Republicans and if you Vote for Her you are as Bad as a Republican too.

Neither of these Opinions are True, in My Own Not-so-Humble Opinion. Why not Wait and See who Wins the Primaries? If you really Agree with Bernie, vote for him in the Primary. If he doesn't Win and Hillary is the Nominee, then vote for her in the General Election. Isn't that Simple? Oh, you are one of Those who say Hillary is no Better than a Republican? Have you SEEN who the Republicans are? Do you KNOW what they Believe? Check out this link.

You will see their Views on Many Subjects are direct Opposites of Hillary's OR Bernie's, especially when it comes to Family Planning and a Woman's Right to Choose. Check out their Views on Energy and Oil and Alternative Energy Sources. Compare their Civil Rights records and their Views on Global Warming. If you are a Democrat, you will realize there IS a difference between the Parties and that Hillary's views are a Lot Closer to Bernie's than You May Realize.

Then Keep in Mind that there will No Doubt be Supreme Court Appointments to be made in the coming Presidential Term. If Hillary is the Democratic Nominee and you Stay Home or Write in a Candidate You Prefer, then if one of these Republican Candidates wins the Election, you will have Only Yourself to Blame if we get a Completely Right Wing Supreme Court as a result.

Me, I am in it for the Long Haul. First, let's see who Emerges among the Republican Crew as the Actual Nominee. Then let's see who the Democratic Nominee is. And then things will Get Interesting. Right now it's all a Big Show.

So... Carry On with the Debates. Maybe by Next Spring they might Mean Something. In the Meantime, I think I will enjoy some Catnip and Relax.



In Memoriam: Farewell to Doris

2015-10-29T13:17:52.222-04:00

Of course, I never called her Doris. I called her Mom - because she was the epitome of a good mother and I didn't feel the least bit odd about calling her that even though she was my mother-in-law, not my own mother. But once she was in the nursing home for a long time, a lot of the people who cared for her referred to her as Doris so I started to think of her that way too.We first met in 1983 when my then-boyfriend, now husband, Ed, was admitted to the hospital with appendicitis - a perfect way to meet one's future in-laws without any pressure! I still remember my first sight of her and my future father-in-law in the waiting room at the hospital. It worked out well for me since I am the one who brought Ed to the hospital and made sure they took good care of him. I was in their good graces from Day One.My mother-in-law was always kind, generous and loving. She never made me feel like an outsider. In fact, later on my father-in-law told me that she always considered me a real daughter, not a daughter-in-law. I feel honored that she felt that way. We were good friends and always found a lot to chat about. Sometimes Ed or his dad had to break in to our conversation in order to get a word in edgewise.Mom was born in 1928 and grew up in South Amboy, New Jersey, the oldest of five. She went to Catholic school and graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1946, just after the war ended. She then worked as a secretary in a doctor's office for awhile. She met Ed's dad at a local dance - soon after he had returned from serving in the Army during World War II. How could she resist this dashing young man, who was still in uniform when they first met? From the pictures I found in an old photo album, they made quite a handsome couple as they were dating.They married in 1948. She was 20, he was 22. Mom only worked until their son was born in 1952, and then became a homemaker. Dad, who had become an engineer, was the breadwinner.During her last illness, Dad said over and over what a wonderful wife and mother she was... but he also revealed they were truly a product of that pre-women's liberation era.He said when they got married, she had wanted to go to school, and he said she could -- but he told her she would not work afterward. He said he told her she was to stay home and take care of any children they had, take care of the house and have dinner on the table, and he would earn the money. So she did. "You know," he reminisced, "We never had an argument in all those years."When Ed was older and in college - they only had the one child - she did work briefly as an administrative assistant in a doctor's office and as a secretary in the local high school. Ed said she loved it. But by the time I met them she was home again. As she once told me, "Dad wanted me home." He wanted to know he could call her any time of day and she'd be able to talk to him, or run an errand if need be.Mom was kept busy with all of her homemaking duties. The house was always spotless; no speck of dust would dare appear on any surface. She was an excellent cook, able to make everything from roasts to fried fish that was light as a feather. She made a pumpkin pie that was everything a pumpkin pie should be. She made fabulous cakes. She was an expert seamstress and made a lot of clothes, including men's jackets, and drapes for the living room. She helped a friend's Girl Scout troop earn their sewing badge by teaching the little girls how to sew. She wrote a weekly social column in the local newspaper. And she was president of the Women's Club, the Garden Club and the PTO.Every summer the whole family would go on a road trip, including four cross-country journeys where they toured the national parks and other sites of interest. A map still hanging on the wall of the family room marks with red pins the various spots they stopped along the way on each trip. They also took trips with Ed's grandparents, to Florida a few times, and once to the Bahamas.Right before I[...]



Fighting the Rat of Death

2015-10-17T23:57:43.089-04:00

It's been a rough year. First Baxter was sick and we weren't sure if he was going to make it - thankfully, as he explained in the last post, he is doing well.Then my mother-in-law, who has dementia and has been in a nursing home for nearly 8 years, started declining rapidly, after being relatively stable for a long time. Looking back, we realized she had been declining all along, but so gradually we didn't really notice it until this year. By June she had forgotten how to swallow properly and had started getting recurrent cases of aspiration pneumonia. Finally, she wasn't able to eat at all. DH's father made the decision to have a feeding tube inserted to enable her to continue to eat. "I can't just starve her," he said.DH and I had looked into this back in 2005 when my own father was in a nursing home with dementia and was no longer able to swallow. All of the literature we read online and elsewhere said that inserting a feeding tube when someone has dementia and has lost the ability to swallow does nothing to prolong life and just results in numerous, constant complications.Unfortunately, after 67 years of marriage, in the end, DH's dad couldn't let her go. He wanted just a few more months with her. So, the feeding tube was inserted after a few days of angst and tears on all sides. (Except for my mother-in-law, who, thankfully, had no idea of the drama circling around her). She hasn't been able to speak, other than occasional grunts or simple yes or no answers, for years, and at this point she was hardly even doing that, and was sleeping most of the time.Next came a problem with our 13 or 14-year-old dog Diva. We adopted her 10 years ago, but were never really sure how old she was at that time. Given her arthritis and very grey muzzle, we are thinking she may have been as old as 4 when we adopted her, making her 14 now.We started to notice changes in her behavior over the summer. She gradually stopped coming upstairs to sleep on our bed, preferring to stay downstairs on her own bed nearby her adoptive "sister," Angel.Then in September we realized she was getting very deaf, and more and more sensitive to odd noises. She had developed a fear of thunder and fireworks a few years ago, but now she became afraid of acorns falling on the tin roof at our cabin in the Adirondacks, nail guns, hammering, and any other abrupt noises. She started shaking whenever one of these objectionable sounds occurred.Then we went to Cape Cod for a week and she acted nervous in the car going up, panting and restless; then at the cottage, a new one for us that we hadn't stayed at before, she started acting nervous and pacing around every evening.We had gotten a prescription for Xanax from the vet for her since we had started noticing this nervousness before we left, and that calmed her down but didn't cure the problem. She decided the bathroom was the only safe place to sleep, so we put her bed in there. Not very convenient when we got up in the middle of the night to use the facilities, but at least Diva was happy. We were afraid she was developing doggie dementia and that it was a sign of age and it would only get worse...Then, the day after we got home, we finally realized what might be part of the problem - she had a urinary tract infection! She started asking to go out and urinate every half hour and we realized there was blood in her urine. We rushed over to our local emergency veterinarian clinic and had her checked out and the vet gave us antibiotics and painkillers for her. After only a day on the antibiotics and painkillers, her behavior became much more normal. After two weeks she seems back to her old self; but she still won't sleep on our bed.We were up at the cabin this past week while she was still getting better, and we were still worrying about her, as well as DH's mom, who was back in the hospital with yet another bout of pneumonia. She had also developed a C. difficile intestinal infecti[...]



A Cat's Eye View - Baxter has returned just in time for the election season!

2015-10-15T14:13:04.078-04:00

Well, here I am again. I expect Many of you have wondered where I have Been; I suppose a Few have also wondered about the Disappearance of my Female Human over the past Year or so. Of course, not as many as would have missed Me. That Goes without Saying.On My part, I have had a Bad Year, health-wise. In Fact, I may have used up one of my Nine Lives this past Year. It all started Last Fall when I started Losing Weight. That Female Human who sticks needles into Me and pokes at Me in that Office we go to (my Humans call her a Veterinarian, whatever that is) suspected I had something wrong with an Organ I apparently have called a Thyroid. She decided my Humans would have to shove some little White thing down my throat at Periodic Intervals in order to Fix the Problem.Well, Needless to Say, I tried my Best to trick them out of being able to do this. If I see one of them coming, I Hide under the Bed until all risk of having that Thing shoved down my Throat is over. If it’s at Night, I just wait till they go to Bed and turn out the Light and then I can come out. Sometimes they try to Trick Me into eating it in my Food but I am Too Smart for them.Nonetheless, I eventually had enough of these things (I believe they call them Pills) shoved down my Throat that the Veterinarian thought I should be gaining back the Weight I had lost. But I wasn’t. She got worried there was Something Else Wrong. After Several Months they finally decided I needed something called an Ultrasound. I was Dropped Off ignominiously at 8 a.m. one day at the Veterinarian’s Office and left in a CAGE (the horror!) until the Procedure was done. As it turned Out, I have some kind of Thickening in my Guts somewhere that could either be Cancer or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The Veterinarian and my Female Human agreed that at My Age it wasn’t worth doing a Biopsy to find out which it is; the Treatment would work on either, one more long-term than the Other. I think they called it Prednisilone.So now – to my Horror – I have to have TWO of these Pill things shoved down my Throat twice a day. I had gotten Very Thin – down to 8-1/2 lbs. -- when I was once a Hearty 23 lbs.! My Humans said I looked like a walking Furry Cat Skeleton. Lo and Behold, after 6 weeks on these New Pills, I have gained back 4 lbs. and am looking much more like my Old Self! On top of That, I have enough Energy to jump up on the Bed again instead of using the Cat Steps my Humans had put there for my Use. How do you like my New Look?Sure, I sometimes still Manage to avoid taking the Pills but I know underneath that they may be what is Doing Me Good. So I get enough of them to Do the Job. My Humans hope it is the IBD and not the Cancer. Seems to Me if it were the Latter, I wouldn’t be doing as Well as I am! So, now that I am feeling Better, I thought it was About Time that I went back to Blogging, as one of my Fans suggested to my Female Human recently on Facebook.And just in Time, too – the Presidential Election Season has Already Begun! Oh my, I can’t Believe the number of crazy Candidates there seem to be on the Republican Side! And the Leading Candidate so far is that Donald Trump person – what on Earth is going on when more Republicans think he would be a Good President than any of the others? I am only a Cat, but even I can see he has no Qualifications to be President. Then there’s the Neurosurgeon, Ben Carson. Being a Neurosurgeon doesn’t mean you’re smart. It means you are a Good Mechanic. You can cut open someone’s Brain and make a lot of delicate changes that require Steady Hands and a Knowledge of what Nerves are located Where. That is something you Memorize. But when it comes to Knowing Things outside of Medicine, or even Thinking Right in general, there is no need for that in that career.  And obviously, this one lacks both of those types of Knowledge. I mean, he doesn’t believe in Evolution[...]



Curing Childhood With a Pill

2014-05-28T14:02:33.505-04:00

I have had this post percolating in the back of my mind for over a month now, ever since reading an article in the New York Times about a newly-"discovered" mental disorder in children called Sluggish Cognitive Tempo or SCT. According to the article, "the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing. By some researchers' estimates, it is present in perhaps two million children."Over six million children in the United States, according to the article, have been given diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), usually treated with one of several drugs. Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta,all stimulants, are among the drugs used to treat kids with standard ADHD symptoms.Eli Lilly makes Strattera, a non-stimulant type of drug used for ADHD. Lilly recently funded a study to learn whether Strattera can help symptoms of SCT as well. The conclusion was that Strattera did have significant effects on children with the condition, which may or may not be an official mental disability. It may just be a subtype of ADHD. It is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a separate condition even though symptoms have been recognized for several decades.Then I saw yet another article in the Times, this one saying that 10,000 toddlers are being medicated for ADHD - these are children of 2 or 3 years old - many of them children who are on Medicaid. These medications haven't even been studied for safety or efficacy in children this young, and using them on toddlers is outside the standard of care for pediatricians. And yet, this experiment on our youngest citizens is taking place across the country. Young children, practically still babies, are being given powerful drugs with unknown consequences when their behavior patterns could be the result of poor nutrition, poor family life, lack of sleep, etc. Toddlers develop at different rates and this age group is in flux - some children are precocious; others may be a bit behind and find it harder to settle down. Shouldn't their physicians be looking deeper, or waiting longer to see what happens as the toddler matures, rather than prescribing a pill to "cure" him or her?I am not denying there are children who do have real learning disabilities and that they have been helped tremendously by these medications. This new or renamed disorder may be another type of ADHD or a separate condition and there may really be kids who might benefit if properly diagnosed and medicated. In fact, I am usually a strong proponent for "better living through chemistry."But - I do wonder whether it is true that this many children in our country truly have something wrong with them, or whether adults' expectations of children's behavior have changed in the last 30 years or so. Schools and teachers are being judged on how well they are functioning by how well the children they teach do on tests. Many children worry about things like getting into college at an age which my generation wasn't even thinking about it yet. They take expensive classes just to ensure a high SAT score; something no one did in my day. Heck, in New York City, parents compete  - and even cheat - to get their children into the "right" preschool.When I look at the definition of SCT, I think of some other students in the past who may have had those symptoms - students like Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison, for instance, both of whom were considered problem students."He [Einstein] was a poor student, and some of his teachers thought he might be [ mentally handicapped]; he was unable to speak fluently at age nine. Still, he was fascinated by the laws of nature, experiencing a deep feeling of wonder when puzzling over the invisible, yet real, force directing the needle of a compass.... Einstein's formal secondary education ended at age sixteen. He dislike[...]



Haiku Wednesday

2014-04-02T15:41:27.533-04:00

Procrastination
Is such a lonely talent
At which I excel.

I should be cleaning
And laundry is a-waiting;
And yet here I sit.

Articles to write,
A resume to update;
And yet here I sit.

A trip to pack for,
Instructions to write for pets,
And yet here I sit.

The dogs should be walked,
The kitchen must be cleaned up,
And yet here I sit.

Blame it on Facebook,
And the videos of cats,
And so here I sit.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/AvPNaJ8OWCM" width="560">



The Early Internet - An Ode to Prodigy

2014-04-01T16:54:54.091-04:00

Mental Floss recently posted a bunch of old ads for the Prodigy internet service on their Facebook page and I took a trip down memory lane by watching them.We bought our first computer in 1990 - it had something like 40 MB of hard disk space and used 5" floppy disks. It was some kind of IBM PC clone and we had debated for awhile whether to buy a Mac or a PC, deciding ultimately to go with the PC because it was cheaper; and even then we shelled out about $2000 for a computer that couldn't hold a candle to the computing power in any of our smartphones.I don't even know what we used that computer for when we first got it - maybe spreadsheets? We weren't early adopter types, like those who used CompuServe in the 80s; we were internet virgins. But then we heard about Prodigy because there were commercials on TV constantly. So we became early subscribers to their internet service. Of course back then we only had dial-up modems to access the internet. But in those DOS-based days, even though Prodigy had a graphical user interface, accessing the service was not a problem since the graphics were so much more primitive back then.My first non-work email address was through Prodigy, and my first online shopping experiences were through Prodigy. From the beginning I saw the advantage of shopping online - and now I do almost all of my shopping that way, even for groceries! But it was thanks to Prodigy that I first got hooked on it.I remember getting up every morning during the first Iraq war and getting online to see the latest headlines from the night before. It was through Prodigy that I started to be addicted to getting the latest news without waiting for a newspaper.My favorite aspect of the service was their message boards, which they called bulletin boards. They were organized by topic and subtopic. So, for instance, there was a Pets topic, a Dogs subtopic, and then individual subjects under that. You could either create your own heading or get involved in a discussion under another heading, such as, in my case, Pit Bulls. In 1995 we had just adopted a pittie mix, our dog Alice, from the local shelter, and I got into discussions with other lovers of the breed on that bulletin board. We had a great community there and I got to know one of the members well enough that we started exchanging snail mail Christmas cards each year. She lived in Fresno, California. Unfortunately, we eventually lost touch. I am hoping she and her husband and pets are still doing well.By the mid-90s AOL was overtaking Prodigy as the more popular service, but I never liked their format. I tried their service a few times, using one of the free floppy disks they sent to our house, but ended up sticking with Prodigy.However, as time went by, we eventually dropped Prodigy because the costs were going up - and by then there were so many other ways to access the Internet. We tried Juno for awhile, and then Earthlink, all still using dial-up. Then we finally succumbed and got Comcast cable, which gave us high speed internet access as well as cable television. Believe it or not, we did not have cable TV until then.By this time - maybe it was 1999 or so? - the Internet was much more established. I was in touch with many old friends through email and went on various forums from time to time, but I missed the interaction with other people that I got in a more organized format.In the early 2000s I found that kind of interaction on the online forums on our New Jersey site, NJ.com. There were forums about our town of Bloomfield, for our county - Essex - and for various subjects, including religion, politics, and pets.Once again I found myself part of a community of likeminded (or not so likeminded) people, and delved into deep conversations with people I had never met. We all had "handles" to disguise our real identiti[...]



Science is Not an Opinion

2014-03-14T19:23:18.682-04:00

Source of cartoonOne of the things that really worries me about the "modern" (and I use that word loosely) Republican Party is the insistence by many of the party's members that scientific facts that others take for granted are merely matters of opinion - and not facts at all.For instance, I really thought the question of evolution versus creationism had been settled back in 1925 with the Scopes Trial, which was widely seen as a setback for anti-evolution forces at the time, although the Supreme Court didn't rule on the issue until 1968, in the case of Epperson vs. Arkansas.At that time, two states, Arkansas and Mississippi, banned the teaching of evolution in schools. The Court ruled that the Arkansas law"...must be stricken because of its conflict with the constitutional prohibition of state laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The overriding fact is that Arkansas' law selects from the body of knowledge a particular segment which it proscribes for the sole reason that it is deemed to conflict with a particular religious doctrine; that is, with a particular interpretation of the Book of Genesis by a particular religious group."A 1987 Supreme Court decision also ruled a Louisiana law requiring teachers to teach creationist theory if they were teaching evolution was also unconstitutional, again based on the establishment clause of the First Amendment.With the rise in importance of the Religious Right in the U.S. over the past few decades, teaching evolution as the accepted theory of how different species, including mankind, came into existence, has become a source of contention in many states. Some states, like Kentucky, have laws that allow teachers to teach creationism along with evolution at their discretion. Curricula in other states downplay evolution by emphasizing that it is only a "theory," or authorizing the teaching of alternative explanations.One of the exasperating things about those who claim evolution is "only a theory" is their lack of understanding of the scientific method. The use of "theory" as it pertains to evolution is as a part of that method:"A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step—known as a theory—in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon."It is all the more concerning that in a recent Gallup poll, 46% of Americans believe God created people and animals just as they are, less than 10,000 years ago, despite tons of scientific evidence to the contrary. People who believe this stuff come up with excuses to explain away the evidence, or to say the evidence is fake, or even say Satan is the one who came up with the idea that dinosaurs are millions of years old.The even scarier thing is that the same percentage of college graduates believe this. And of course, 58% of Republicans.Then there is the issue of climate change. It appears pretty low on the list of things that people worry "a great deal about," at 24%. But when it comes to Republicans vs. Democrats, there is a clear difference. When you look at the Democrats, 36% of them are concerned "a great deal" about climate change, while among Republicans, just 10% have that level of concern.And although, overall, 67% of Americans believe the earth is heating up, 85% of Democrats believe it, but only 48% of Republicans do. When you look at conservative Republicans, it's only 43% - and among those only 16% think it is happening due to human activity.97% of scientists who have studied the issue agree that global warming is taking place as a result of human activity, and will cause catastrophic results during the next 100 years.Bu[...]



A Cat's Eye View - Baxter is Back

2014-03-07T18:07:14.936-05:00

Baxter here. Yes, I'm Finally Back, after my Female Human decided to take an Umpteen Month Break and not let me Blog. I have So Much pent up inside that I don't know Where to Start.Let's see... Since my Last Opportunity to Blog, a Lot of Stuff has Gone Down. I'll try to cover it By Month.July 2013: George Zimmerman was Acquitted of Murdering Trayvon Martin. This self-styled Vigilante took it upon himself to follow a young African American guy who was walking Back from the Store with a bag of Skittles, and ending up shooting him Dead even though the Cops said not to get out of the car and follow him when he called 911 to report Suspicious Activity. He claimed he was In Fear of His Life and that's why he shot the Kid. Hmm. If he hadn't gotten Out of the Car he wouldn't have had to Worry about that, would he?August 2013: Two more states, Minnesota and Rhode Island, began issuing Same-Sex Marriage licenses, later Followed by other States, in the Wake of the Supreme Court's striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act. (Same-Sex Marriage is Now Legal in 17 States plus Washington, DC and counting!)Bradley Manning was Convicted of leaking over 700,000 Government Files and Sentenced to 35 years in Jail (although he can get Out on Parole in 7 years). Seems a Bit of an Extreme Punishment to Me.September 2013: Colorado voters recalled pro-gun control state senators for Supporting recently enacted Gun Control measures. And... also in September, Aaron Alexis, a former Navy Reservist, shot and killed 12 People at the Washington Navy Yard near the U.S. Capitol. But we don't Need Gun Control... really?November 2013: Illinois and Hawaii legalized Same-Sex Marriage. Virginia Elected a Democratic Governor, and Chris Christie was Re-Elected in New Jersey, to Our Dismay. And of course, the News in Guns included not One, but Two shootings in November: One at Los Angeles Airport and one at a New Jersey Shopping Center. Sadly, there was also a Typhoon that Hit the Philippines and killed a Lot of Humans.December 2013: Yet Another Shooting, this time in Colorado, where a Kid killed another Student when he Couldn't FInd the Teacher he was Aiming to Kill. Then he Killed Himself. There was also a Nasty Train Crash in the Bronx that Killed 4 Humans and injured about 60 Others.January 2014: January was a Great Month for New Jersey Democrats, as the Bridgegate Scandal erupted around Governor Christ Christie, dating to a Closure of Traffic Lanes to the George Washington Bridge near Fort Lee, Back in September. Turns out it was done On Purpose by some of Christie's Most Trusted Aides, and it's all Under Investigation. MSNBC had a Field Day digging into the Details for Weeks!We got a new Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, the first Female Human to do the Job. Good for Her! West Virginia had a Terrible Chemical Spill that contaminated Drinking Water, a result of Chemicals used in the Coal Industry. Between that and the Mountaintop Removal Method of Coal Mining, seems to Me that we should Phase Out the use of Coal as a Fuel in this Country!February 2014: They had some Pretty Scary Revolts and Protests in Venezuela and Ukraine - the Ukraine Stuff is Still Going On. And there were Also the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in Russia. Lots of Controversies between Russia's Anti-Gay Policies and their deadly Solution for the Stray Dogs in the Area. Luckily, not all the Dogs met a Bad Fate - a Russian mogul helped Fund a Shelter to save a Lot of Them, and some Olympians even Adopted some.March 2014: Russia marched into the Crimean part of Ukraine, which is Mostly Russian-Speaking People, and Crimea's Parliament voted to Join Russia. President Obama has Ordered Sanctions against Those responsible.Now, I know I must have Left Out many Important News Items but thi[...]



Haiku Tuesday - Mardi Gras Edition

2014-03-04T17:46:55.143-05:00














Fat Tuesday is here
Celebrating it.

But all is not lost
I'll be at the Yellow Plum
Eating and drinking.

What's the Yellow Plum?
Ah, well you may be asking

Tonight they will have
Gumbo and jambalaya
And red beans and rice.

I'm sure there will be
To wash it all down.

For dessert, beignets;
Whatever else would you have?
On such a fine night.

I must get ready
My friend is picking me up
I must find my beads.




My Little Town

2014-03-18T12:27:35.566-04:00

I asked Baxter if he wanted to post but he said he isn't ready yet, as he needs to catch up on current events a bit before deciding on a good topic.So, I'm here again instead, to talk about something that occurred to me Sunday morning as I was lazing in bed trying to get up the energy to get up. My father-in-law was coming for breakfast, and it made me think about the differences between where he lives and where we live.DH's dad and mom bought their house in Holmdel, New Jersey, when DH was about 5, and they were about 30. The house was not completed yet, so they went every day to watch it being built. At that time, Holmdel was the wide open country; their housing development was built on the site of an old orchard, and the road that their house faced was a country road with little traffic.Now, 57 years later, that road is very busy; the farms in the area are all gone, replaced by highways and strip malls...Holmdel is grouped into neighborhoods of 1950s homes like my father-in-law's modest 3-bedroom, split level/1 car garage house, tracts of slightly larger homes built in the mid-60s, and new neighborhoods filled with expensive McMansions in more exclusive locations, with an occasional original farmhouse scattered here and there.(House photos courtesy of Zillow.com).The top picture above is the house next door to Dad's, which was recently sold. If you look at that picture you can't tell it sits on a busy road, but believe me, it does. As you can imagine, people who live in the neighborhoods that have houses that look like Dad's do not interact with those who live in neighborhoods that have houses that look like the second picture. At all.In earlier days, when DH was young, and his parents were active in their church and community, they knew their neighbors and had friends in the area, as well as siblings and cousins. Everyone had moved to the area at around the same time; their kids were all growing up together, and families had similar jobs and incomes.But as everyone aged, their friends and extended family all moved far away or died, and now my mother-in-law has dementia and is living in a nursing home and Dad lives alone in the house that he and Mom watched being built so many years ago. He visits Mom in the nursing home - about a 20 minute drive from his house - every day, twice a day, unless he is away for the weekend up at our cabin for a break.I was thinking about how isolated he is living in that house now that all his old neighbors are gone. He doesn't know anyone in the neighborhood. There is never anyone walking up or down his street, not even walking their dogs. There are no stores near enough for anyone to walk to, so everyone uses their cars to go anywhere. And where do they go? Strip malls, big box stores on the highway, and enclosed malls.I am thankful that Dad does go to the nursing home every day, because at least that way people are watching out for him as well as for Mom. If he didn't show up unexpectedly they would worry and call us.Thinking about all this, I started comparing his situation to our town. We live in Bloomfield, a suburb of New York, a gritty older town that has been pretty much built out for at least 100 years.At one time Bloomfield too had farms, and went through its own development into a more populous town. But the housing that was built in the early 20th century was built under the assumption that people would need to be able to walk to stores or public transit. Much of our neighborhood was developed in 1912, so most people did not have cars. Even the north end of town, which is newer, was built when most families had only one car, so some walking was still required.Many residential areas, particularly in the older end of town, were [...]



The Snowpocalypse Continues, and What I've Been Up to for 8 Months

2014-03-01T14:32:16.811-05:00

Well, here is my first post of what I hope will be a month of daily postings. I decided that is the only way to get back into the habit of blogging and catching up with all my blogger friends and their posts as well.One reason for my long absence is, for the second half of last year we were living in a condition of total chaos as our kitchen was being totally renovated.It all started about a year ago when we decided to renovate our upstairs bathroom, which had deteriorated to the point that we truly expected the tub to land downstairs on top of the kitchen stove at some point. Tiles had fallen off the tub wall to reveal that there was no actual wall behind them. Things were not good.The configuration of the bathroom was horrendous as well - it was claustrophobic and dated to the 1940s or 50s, we believe.So we contracted with a local kitchen and bath contractor and started on the bathroom. It was to be a full rip-out, and they would be turning the tub crossways under the window to make the room more spacious.Once they ripped everything out, they found, no surprise to us, that all the joists needed to be replaced and/or reinforced since they were rotting from water leakage over many years. This meant ripping out the kitchen ceiling to be able to get underneath the joists.Now, the kitchen ceiling was a problem to begin with. It was a dropped ceiling, and we had long known that above that was a long-ago disaster of some sort, as there were two layers of plaster ceiling above it that had obviously collapsed at some point. All of the later plumbing had been piped in below the plaster ceiling and above the dropped ceiling.To make a long story short, the bathroom turned out great. The change was amazing. But before the contractor did anything about closing up the kitchen ceiling, he said,  "Um, since your ceiling is already all torn apart, if you were ever thinking of redoing your kitchen, now might be the time to do it."DH and I looked at each other, thinking about the fact that some day we may want to sell the house, and the current kitchen just didn't cut it. It should be noted I'd also been watching a lot of HGTV recently. We decided to go for it.We had to take everything out of the kitchen and the pantry. I had no idea how much STUFF we had stuffed into the cabinets. It all went in boxes. I tried to separate out stuff we didn't need anymore or was too old and gross to keep, from stuff we wanted to keep. The boxes went in the living room, the dining room, and the sun porch where we hang out and watch TV.The boxes stayed there from the end of August to the end of December. No cooking could take place so we spent a lot of time up at the cabin or eating out.When we were at home, DH would go out and buy McDonalds Egg McMuffins for breakfast on weekends and I was hitting Dunkin' Donuts for a bagel and coffee during the week. Every day around 8 a.m. the Men would come to work on the kitchen. We got to know a lot of the Men. The dogs loved all of them, and they loved the dogs too, luckily. The cat mostly hid under the bed.Finally just before the holidays, it was all complete, even the painting. And then we had to put everything away. We managed to give away all the stuff that we wanted to give away (thank goodness the veterans and the Lupus Foundation keep calling me to see if I have anything to donate - I kept saying yes and making sure I had boxes to put out for them).In the end we had gotten rid of our pantry and replaced it with a powder room. We finally have a first floor bathroom, and now that we have it, I can't imagine how we lived here for 27 years without one.The rest of the pantry was converted into a deep closet, which we are using as a sm[...]



Watch this space!

2014-02-27T19:11:56.533-05:00

Just wanted to check in and let you know, if anyone is still looking at this page, that I have, as usual, made a New Year's resolution to blog again. I know, I know, it's the end of February. But I've been working on my other New Year's resolutions and have to do this a little at a time or my brain can't take the stress.

I updated the format and colors of the blog a bit - always a good way to procrastinate rather than actually write something - and deleted some of the links in my blogroll. I deleted any "professional" sites such as Huffington Post or Daily Kos, because, after all, aren't we all on Facebook these days? I see links from these sites all the time in my news feed over there so no need to link them here.

Sadly, I also deleted some links to blogs that I have enjoyed in the past but have not been updated in over a year. I hope if any of you are among them and see this post, you will let me know if you start blogging again and I will be happy to add you back to the list!

I also cleaned up a bit of the junk that had accumulated along my sidebar - all those old "awards" we used to give each other back in the old days - just to make it look a bit cleaner.

So, now that the housekeeping is done, I'm ready to blog again. I am going to try to write something every day starting on March 1. Hope you will hold me to it! ;-)



A Historic Day in America!

2013-06-26T11:09:05.828-04:00


Oh happy day! The Supreme Court came down on the right side of history today by ruling the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and dismissing the Proposition 8 case due to the plaintiffs not having legal standing to bring the case before the court, thus allowing marriage equality again in California!

As a result of the DOMA ruling, the federal government will now recognize legally married gay couples in states that recognize their marriages and give them all the rights and privileges afforded to all married couples. And because the ruling is based on the equal protection clause, this ruling could have much broader consequences.

This is a historic day for the whole country - it is a huge step forward to fulfilling the country's promise that EVERYONE has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! Let's keep the momentum going until all states become marriage equality states!



This Blog is Not Dead Yet!

2013-06-13T12:31:46.549-04:00

Where does the time go? I can't believe it's been five months since I - or more properly, Baxter - last posted. I miss reading everyone's blogs, but for some reason keep getting sucked into Facebook and end up in long conversations over there. One of the things I always liked about blogging was the conversations we have in the comments section, which Facebook seems to so easily supplant. However, I miss the effort it takes to actually think about a subject and write coherently about it, and even more so, read the excellent posts on other blogs. I must come over to the Blog World more frequently again.So, for those who only know me from here, I apologize for being out of touch for so long.I never did write a post on gun control as planned - as you can figure out, I am in favor of it - but did have some great discussions over on Facebook about it - so much so that one of my former FB friends unfriended me. She is a libertarian I had known from having worked together years ago, who had such strong feelings about the Second Amendment that she couldn't even bring herself to deal with me anymore.We used to have what I thought were civil discussions about the issues we disagree on (which is most of them with the exception of some social issues), but apparently she just couldn't address the issue further and unfriended me! I was sorry, as I do value being able to discuss issues with people who don't agree with me so as to understand their perspective and also to know what the opposition is up to!Now I have discovered a Facebook friend who friended me at some point is apparently an Islamist extremist, which I had no idea about until a post he made yesterday. I am thinking I should unfriend him before I find myself getting a visit from the FBI or CIA or something after they monitor my Facebook friends list!Speaking of which, what are your thoughts about the U.S. surveillance program that Edward Snowden recently revealed to the world?Personally, I was not shocked. It's not as if we didn't know the Patriot Act had plenty of questionable things in it that gave the government broad powers when it came to tracking terrorism.But this does seem like a slippery slope, and I am disappointed that President Obama has supported these practices as well as other policies initiated under President Bush.That said, I am very suspicious about this Snowden guy and how he happened to have access to the information he subsequently revealed.  Here's a high-school dropout who suddenly got a $122,000 a year job at a major government contractor, and immediately apparently had secret clearance (which usually takes a lot of time to get) - and then leaves after only 3 months to spill the beans to the world about what the government is doing to monitor American citizens' communications. Who is this guy? Who placed him where he had access to all this sensitive information, and why? I am not convinced he acted alone.Now he's saying that we've been hacking into China's computer systems and the U.S. is afraid he may defect to China along with all the secrets he has compiled. While I understand some may applaud the revelation of the U.S. government surveillance program, this man has ultimately endangered the security of the United States and to me is more of a traitor than a hero. I'll be interested to hear others' thoughts about this.In the next post, Baxter will tell you about his Great Escape on our recent trip to Cape Cod. More to come.[...]



A Cat's Eye View: Looking Back and Looking Forward

2013-01-08T16:01:30.069-05:00

Baxter here. A Belated Happy New Year to all my Fans.As the Old Joke goes, I'm glad to be Here - in fact, I'm glad to be Anywhere!Some of you may know that I had a Scary Health Problem a week or two ago. All of a Sudden I couldn't eat my Food properly! My Tongue hurt. It stuck out the Side of my Mouth and that made me Drool. It was Disgusting.Luckily, as soon as my Humans noticed the Problem, they rushed me to the Animal Emergency and Referral Associates over in Fairfield, NJ; because of course this first popped up on a Friday night after the Regular Vet closed.They are Wonderful People there, although I did not Appreciate being held and having them look at my Tongue. It turned out there was a Big Lump down there under my Tongue with a sore on it. The vet thought it was Cancer, but they couldn't tell until they did a Biopsy. So I spent the Whole Weekend at the AERA with an IV to keep me hydrated until they could Put Me Under on Monday morning and do the Biopsy. In the Meantime they gave me Steroids for inflammation.By the time my Female Human picked me up on Tuesday morning I felt Great! I came Home and happily scarfed down a Whole Bowl of wet food. I purred. I rolled on the Bed. I was a New Cat.Amazingly, the Biopsy turned out to be Normal - no Cancer! I am still taking Steroids, but am feeling Fine. I go back for a Checkup next Tuesday to see if the Problem is gone.So that's the News from My perspective.Now, for the Rest of the News. As Everyone knows by Now, the Fiscal Cliff Disaster didn't quite Happen. At the Last Minute the President and the Republicans were able to come to an Agreement to raise taxes on the Richer-than-Most-People, those making $400,000 or above as a Single Person, or on couples making $450,000 and higher, among Other Things. Plus, Federal Unemployment Benefits were Extended for a year. But none of the Budget Cuts that were originally part of the So-Called Cliff were enacted - that Fight is Yet to Come.Now, I know Some of You feel that the President gave in to the GOP by allowing the Cutoff for being "Rich" to rise from $250,000 in income, which was the Original Idea, to $400-$450,000. But as a Cat, I look at it This Way. If there were a Big Tomcat over on one side of the Yard that had a big HUGE Two-Gallon Bucket full of Catnip, the difference between those two amounts would probably be the Difference between a Quarter Cup of Catnip vs. a Half Cup of Catnip out of that whole Two Gallon Bucket. So the Tax is going to be on the Rest of the Bucket, which is still a Lot. Right? Please do Correct Me if I am wrong in this Analogy. I am Only a Cat and we don't really Understand Taxes too well.Looking Ahead, it seems the GOP still doesn't Admit that they Lost the Election in November. They vow to have a Big Fight over Raising the Debt Ceiling next month even though President Obama says he won't Fight about that subject. It Remains to be Seen whether he can avoid that Fight.My Female Human will be back shortly to discuss Gun Control issues. In the Meantime, hang in there, the Days are already getting Longer and Winter cannot last Forever! Have some Catnip and Relax. I know I will!P.S. My Female Human has added a Word Verification thingie to the Comments. There were Too Many spammy comments being Posted on the Blog. Apologies to Our Loyal Readers for having to Put you through that Annoyance.[...]



Downsizing Man's Best Friend

2012-12-01T20:17:35.991-05:00

This is one of those "WTF is wrong with people?" posts.I was reading the New York Times today and saw an article about a family in North Carolina who downsized their home from a 3,200 square foot home to a much more manageable 1,300 square foot house.Always attracted to stories about people who manage to simplify their lives, I read the article with interest. Ever since we bought our cabin in the woods in the southeastern Adirondacks, which is basically one big room with a bathroom and a sleeping alcove plus a sun porch that can double as a guest bedroom, I have realized that our larger home in New Jersey is really more than we need.The article started off in a heart-warming way, explaining how the family realized that the only reason they used one of their bathrooms was to wash the family dog, Toby, and that they spent most of their time as a family in one section of the house, in the back where their family room was."'The eat-in kitchen and the family room in the back of the house,' Mr. Kelly says. 'If we looked at where we lived as a family, it was the back of the house. When I thought about it, I realized we never spent any time in the bedrooms, except to sleep. The boys did their homework in the kitchen. The house was a waste.'"So the family sold their big house for $675,000 and instead bought a 1,300-square-foot ranch house for just $245,000, leaving lots of money to play with ($300,000 was spent on renovations). So they added a large deck (15' by 45'), redid the kitchen/dining room/living room area, and installed built-in storage space in their new home."Another big-ticket item was the built-in storage. Made by Bo Taylor Custom Woodworking, a local company, it cost the Kellys $52,000. But it includes an entrance closet where the boys can drop their book bags, and cabinetry throughout the house. It’s so extensive, in fact, that none of the bedrooms have a dresser."The article goes on to describe their wonderful new situation. The gas/electric bills have fallen from $300 a month to $100 a month, their property taxes went down by about half, and they now keep things simple by digitizing their paperwork so they don't have stuff all over the house.So what's the problem with this story? The last paragraph, the kicker:"There has been one sad downside to the downsizing, though. The new house, the Kellys realized, was too small for a dog the size of Toby. So he has gone to live with a family that has a bigger house, as well as another collie to keep him company."So, back to my first line. WTF??? You downsized your house but now decide it's "too small" for your DOG? Are you KIDDING me? First of all, the dog couldn't care less how much room he had. He just wanted to be with you. (Our two dogs are each sitting next to us on our respective couches here at the aforementioned cabin that is basically one big room. There is plenty of room.)This house this family bought is a 3-bedroom house. People lived in houses this size for years back in my childhood (and still do) - along with dogs, cats, and hamsters and children - and there was room for everyone.No, there was plenty of room for Toby in the house - but apparently not in their hearts. If they had a third child they wouldn't have gotten rid of the child just because they moved to a smaller house. So why is it OK to give away the dog? And what kind of example is that for their children in terms of teaching them a sense of responsibility?Yes, I know this is not the most egregious example of uncaring dog owners. I know that there are worse dog owners, dog owne[...]



A Cat's Eye View

2012-11-29T20:25:20.804-05:00

Baxter here. It's been awhile, but don't think I have Forgotten my Fans. I have just been Waiting for this Election business to be Over. It was all Too Much for Me.I am just Glad that it turned out the Way it did and that we didn't have another Big Mess like back in 2000, as some were worried we would. Of course, I knew a Cool Cat like President Obama would know the right way to get back in the White House for four more years!He sure didn't have much of a Second Honeymoon, though, did he?Boom, right after the Election came the News that General Petraeus, the Director of the CIA, had been Fooling Around with his Biographer, Paula Broadwell - and then came all kinds of other Stories about these hot Twin Sisters, Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam, who were hanging around all the Generals.Amusingly to Me, these stories always refer to the Twins as "Socialites,"  a rather Quaint Term. Reminds My Humans of a Tom Waits song called Invitation to the Blues.  "He probably left her for a socialite, didn't love her 'cept at night, and then he's drunk and didn't even tell her that he cared..."But I digress... sorry...Apparently the former head of the CIA is spending his Days "grovelling" to his wife of 38 years, Holly, according to an Article in the UK's Daily Mail. My Female Human doesn't blame his Wife for being Furious, which is how her Mood is described by Those in the Know.Even though it was Broadwell that had the Affair with the General, the Involvement of the Twin Socialites also seemed Rather Suspicious... something my Female Human felt was particularly Obvious in this Picture which has been Published far and wide, of the two Women, Petraeus (second from left) and Holly (far right) along with Jill's husband, in the center.Two of these things are Not Like the Others, wouldn't you say?In Fact, it has all Become so Convoluted and Involved so Many People in the Cast of Characters that the Borowitz Report posted an Article saying the CIA has come out with a Pamphlet to help you know whether YOU may be part of the Petraeus Scandal without even knowing it!It is also being Reported that Paula Broadwell, who is married with two Children, is "devastated" by the Harm caused by the Fling between her and the General.Ah, Humans... what is that Old Saying? "What a tangled Web we Weave, when First we Practice to Deceive."Just goes to Show that perhaps Male Humans should be Neutered, just like Tomcats are, so they won't be Getting Into Trouble when they are past their Prime and vulnerable to Younger Women's wiles.Or, per the Cartoon that Some have been Posting over on Facebook, maybe this is what Happens when you Allow Heterosexuals to Serve Openly in the Military?At Any Rate, this Scandal is finally moving Off the front pages since it's been a Couple of Weeks and we're Off to the Races again with the Fiscal Cliff looming.My Female Human says if she hears the words "Fiscal Cliff" one more time, she Won't Be Responsible For Her Actions.President Obama Won the Election. I Hope he will use his "Political Capital" as They call it, to Stand Firm and not let the Republicans walk all Over Him during negotations. So Far So Good, as far as I can tell. For all the Latest News about the Fiscal Cliff, here's a Good Article. A few Choice Quotes to follow. The first, from GOP House Majority Leader Boehner:"Mr. Boehner said that the White House needs to get serious about offering specific spending cuts they would put on the table towards a potential deal. 'All eyes are on the White House, the country doe[...]



Money Alone Can't Buy You Love

2012-11-08T15:10:43.017-05:00

With President Obama's decisive reelection on Tuesday night, the American people said "no" to the many millions of dollars spent by GOP Super PACs and people like Sheldon Adelson, who donated a small fortune of his own money to support Republican candidates, ending up with nothing to show for it.After the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, many on the left feared that the practically unlimited amount of money that would pour into these surrogate organizations for the Republican candidates would leave the Democrats in the dust.As it turned out, all that money was not enough to buy the election. President Obama was declared the winner a little after 11 p.m., with over 300 electoral college votes already in and possibly more to come, if Florida goes his way, as is expected. Nate Silver was right, and Unskewed Polls and Karl Rove were wrong. It's all over but the spin.So why didn't all that money and advertising help the GOP? Maybe the answer isn't that the money couldn't help, but that it was used inefficiently.In market research, there are models that can analyze and predict the effectiveness and the efficiency of advertising. There is a certain point at which advertising no longer influences the viewer. There is a certain point when the amount of money spent is no longer efficient and additional spending adds diminishing return on investment.(Source: http://www.consumerpsychologist.com/marketing_introduction.html)That saturation point is probably reached even sooner for negative advertising than for other kinds of advertising. The voters just start wishing it was all over, and become cynical about whichever candidate continues to push these ads on them. And it doesn't help that some of Romney's last ads, in Ohio, were full of lies that the voters knew better than to believe in the first place.Of course, the Obama campaign also had plenty of money from donations. They raised a billion dollars themselves and had plenty of advertising. But the difference was in the way they used it. Their advertising started earlier, before Romney's campaign really took off, and defined him to the American voters before he had a chance to.In addition, they targeted individual voters and identified a whole database full of potential supporters who fit the profile of Obama supporters - but hadn't yet become supporters.In market research, this is called identifying your "Strategic Value" stakeholder or consumer - the target person who is most likely to respond to you or to your product and help you achieve your objectives. The next trick is to gain insight into that person and understand what makes them tick. Apparently the President's campaign was able to do this and to motivate those stakeholders to go out and stand in line for hours to vote for President Obama.But it came down to a lot more than just good marketing principles for the President and his supporters.It also came down to changing demographics - and a new coalition of diverse citizens who came together to reject the old viewpoints offered by the GOP, to reject hate and bigotry, and to support the President's vision of moving "Forward!" rather than backward.Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans were all key voting blocs in the Democratic victory. Obama won among Hispanics 71% to 27% for Romney; among Asians by 73-26%, and among African-Americans by 93%. These population groups are all growing, while white Americans, who were more apt to vote for Romney, are declining as a portion [...]



Down to the Wire

2012-11-05T12:54:08.927-05:00

Well, here it is, finally - the last day before the 2012 election. And things are looking relatively good for President Obama, thanks to the October Surprise that turned out to be Hurricane Sandy.According to Nate Silver, the President now has an 86% chance of winning reelection, thanks to leads in the battleground states and a growing lead in the polls for the popular vote (now at 50.6 vs. 48.5). Although Silver says there are plenty of other reasons that Obama has rebounded since his performance at the first debate, I have no doubt that the hurricane and its aftermath did play a part in Romney's recent slippage.I live in New Jersey, which, along with New York City, suffered the worst damage in the storm. Thankfully for us here in Northern New Jersey, the worst we got was a lot of downed trees and power lines. Since the rain wasn't that bad, we were spared the flooding we got last year during Hurricane Irene. But as everyone knows by now, the Jersey Shore was virtually destroyed and will take a long time to rebuild.The destruction in New York City and New Jersey brought an endorsement for President Obama from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent former Republican, who said he thought the president is best equipped to do something about climate change, which he said the storm made clear was an important issue.And, even more importantly, Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who gave the keynote speech at Romney's convention, praised the President's response to the hurricane and accompanied him on a tour of the devastation at the Jersey Shore."Christie told news outlets that the president’s response had been 'outstanding,' said that coordinating with the administration had been 'wonderful,' and remarked that 'the president has been all over this and he deserves great credit.' He even told Fox News the president had done a 'great job for New Jersey' while staying above the fray about politics: 'I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff.'" After receiving criticism from the Romney camp for his embrace of President Obama during the crisis, Christie reiterated his support for Romney but refused to back down on his praise for the President."'I'm a Republican, I've endorsed Mitt Romney and I support him. I intend to vote for him on Tuesday,'" Christie said. 'But the fact of the matter is that if the President of the United States comes here and he is willing to help my people, and he does it, then I'm going to say nice things about him because he's earned it.'"In the meantime, Romney didn't do himself any favors by cynically calling an already-planned campaign rally a "storm relief rally" and actually buying some of the "donations" that supporters then picked up to "donate" to hurricane victims. It also doesn't help that he ignored the fact that the Red Cross discourages physical donations and prefers monetary aid, as sorting and shipping actual goods just takes more time, when it is usually faster to use the money to buy goods from locations closer to the center of the crisis. (You can go here to donate to the Red Cross, by the way!)Romney's campaign also shot itself in the foot by airing deceptive commercials in Ohio during this same time period that warned Jeep and General Motors were sending jobs to China. Both Chrysler (which owns Jeep) and GM emphatically denied the accuracy of the ads.S[...]



Romney, Rape and the Republicans

2012-10-28T10:59:37.121-04:00

Hi all, sorry for my long absence. I have been busily posting political thoughts over on Facebook and getting into lots of conversations but have not gotten around to posting here for much too long.But now that the race is near the end and there is a very real possibility that Romney might manage to win the presidency with his sudden turnaround to Mr. Moderate, I felt I needed to write more about what a Romney presidency would mean.It seems Romney's plan all along was to veer hard right for the primaries and then, as one of his advisers memorably said, use the "Etch-a-Sketch" and get rid of all that in time for the fall campaign when moderates and independents become important in the race. At the time, the comment was seen as a gaffe, but it turns out that is exactly what he had in mind all along. And the Democrats didn't see it coming. No doubt that is one reason President Obama seemed so flummoxed in that first debate; he came prepared with all kinds of anti-far-right rhetoric and there was Romney, blithely making statements supporting moderate positions on subjects he had previously been "severely conservative."Or at least, he made it seem that way. His dissembling was particularly noticeable in his claims about his stance on health care. Contraception? Oh, he's for it. All women should have access to contraception. But he, and unfortunately, President Obama, did not point out that the whole difference was the President's plan requires women's insurance to cover contraception and Romney's plan would not.Pre-existing conditions? Oh, yes, a Romney plan would cover those. But of course he didn't say that his plan was simply a return to the current situation we already have - people who have already had insurance can continue being covered despite pre-existing conditions. It doesn't help anyone who hasn't been insured already, although the individual states could choose to cover them - again, no change from current policy. The pre-existing conditions lie was such a whopper his spokespeople had to explain it after the debate - when all the undecided voters had stopped paying attention.So who is the real Mitt Romney? Apparently there isn't one. Mitt Romney is whoever he needs to be to get elected. The real question is, who are his masters? Who is he beholden to? It seems pretty obvious - The far right. Grover Norquist. The Tea Party. Right-wing evangelic Christians.Heck, Grover Norquist himself said it doesn't really matter who is president as long as he signs the legislation that comes to his desk. And, if he wins, that person would be Romney."All we have to do is replace Obama. We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget... We just need a president to sign this stuff."So whatever Mitt's real beliefs, if he has them, he will be kowtowing to the far right end of his party. He chose Paul Ryan as a running mate to do just that. Ryan's positions are what are "severely conservative." Ryan's proposed budget would change the tax structure, lowering the top bracket to 25% from 35%, as well as making Medicare into a voucher program and making Medicaid into a block grant program administered solely by the states.Romney has distanced himself from the Ryan budget, coming out with his own budget. However, his budget includes a large increase in military spending, as well as lower taxes, which he said[...]



I am still here fighting the good fight... for dogs!

2012-08-15T18:18:48.314-04:00

Sorry for the long absence from the blog world. I have been caught up in some local issues and am trying to save a pit bull named Memphis that is being held at the Bloomfield, NJ shelter without opportunity for adoption despite never having bitten anyone since he has been at the shelter.This dog came in as a stray in February, and the shelter manager, who is herself a dog trainer, but not familiar with pit bulls, felt he had issues that needed to be resolved.She sent him to be evaluated at an animal welfare organization called St. Hubert's, where he was deemed "an accident waiting to happen," due to his responses to other dogs and to strangers who approached him in a threatening or scary manner. He did, however, act very friendly to a stranger who approached him and greeted him.At this point, the dog had been found wandering as a stray, probably abandoned by his original owner, and then kept in a cage with only limited interactions with the outside world for several weeks. Of course he was nervous and over-reactive.The shelter manager continued to work with him, but never felt she could trust him despite the fact that shelter volunteers and others who met Memphis said he was friendly and had never shown any signs of hostility to them.Finally a well-known local trainer and pit bull rescuer, Jeff Coltenback, who also runs a pet store in our town, offered to take Memphis and work with him to ensure he could pass the temperament test and be adopted out. He had hoped to take him on permanently as his rescue is a registered 501(c)(3) rescue organization, but instead the local Health Department insisted he only keep him to train him and made him sign a long agreement which included stipulations on what he could or could not say about the dog's training, among other details.To make a long story short, although Jeff did not comment on the dog's training, he did put up pictures of Memphis with other people, including children, on his Facebook page, and the Health Department demanded after 8 days that he bring Memphis back to the shelter, as he was "putting the public in danger" and it could be a liability for the town. As you can imagine, he was doing nothing of the sort.In fact, Jeff said he only exposed people to Memphis who agreed to work with him, Memphis was supervised at all times, and he said that this is the way he always works with dogs that need socialization. Furthermore, he said since Memphis had come to him he had seen zero evidence of any dangerous traits. The dog gave him no cause for concern or any need for correction during the eight days he had him.In fact, because of Memphis' friendly and winning personality, Jeff and his family fell in love with the dog and now want to adopt him. Since Memphis was returned to the shelter over a week ago, he was given another behavior test, and his future is now an item on the agenda of the Board of Health meeting tomorrow night. Even though the Health Department must have received the written results of the behavior test by now, they are not revealing the conclusions until the meeting takes place.The story of Memphis has gone viral, thanks to social media, Examiner.com and Facebook Causes. I know many of my blog friends are fans of pit bulls; for those who are not, please understand this is a good dog, a family dog, who deserves a loving home. Being with a professional trainer and rescuer who loves him would be a perfect solution fo[...]