Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Is it Hacking If You Do It To Yourself?

Anna commandeered my picture of the beat-up cat, which was going to illustrate a commentary on poker and Intelligent Design. Oh, well, my writing energies have been spent on leelanau.com arguing the school funding thread.

With my new monitor the photos look better but the blog template looks washed out. I opened the template last night and started messing with the color settings using the minimal information from HMTL Made Really Easy. I'm not sure I'm pleased with the results, but it was fun to play.

I want to create a better index to topics and repost some pictures now that I have a monitor that doesn't make them all too dark to see. But that will be later. Today Kathleen is taking Anna and me to Otter Creek to show us where the wild blueberries grow. Shelagh leaves for UM tonight and she wants no help or advice from me while she packs. She is taking everything under the sun, about 5 times as much stuff as she needs, but nobody asked me......

Monday, August 29, 2005

Anna Blogs Again

Our boy definitely has had better days than this.

LISTEN TO THIS !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our cat, Boy (who if you've been wondering is a boy) got attacked by something on his right side
right above his eye . Boy (who is an outdoor indoor cat) can't go outdoors .( Witch is a bummer for
Boy because he spends most of his time outdoors and hates using the litter box.) By the way I'm Anna .Well Bye

Here's Mom again. Check out
Shelter Life, a blog from the East Bay (California) animal shelter.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Catching up

We are still waiting for the state legislature to decide how much money our schools will get for their operating budgets this year. Meanwhile, the Grand Rapids School District is on the brink of receivership. One of the promises of proposal A was that our property tax funds would be pooled so that all public schools would have a secure source of funding. Humph. There has been an active discussion of school funding issues on leelanau.com. This discussion has directed my attention to a bit of history: it seems that in the early 1990's then-governor Engler decided to finance his tax-cut frenzy by taking money from the school pension fund. A judge later ruled this illegal, but not before then fund had been depleted, just in time to miss out on the bull market of the late 90's. Today, contributions to that pension fund is one of the fastest growing expenses for school districts, right up there with health insurance and gasoline.

A lesser known provision of Proposal A was to transfer 100% of the responsibility for funding the teachers pension fund to the local school districts. (Previously their share was 5%.) This is how people like my state senator can say that school districts are "getting much more money than before proposal A" and be technically correct. They get to divest themselves from responsibility from the mess, implying that if school administrators can't make ends meet with "much more money", they must be poor money managers.

This should not be a surprise. Public schools have been a battle ground for the reckless right wing. Indeed, their ultimate goal seems to be the end of the public school system and the ascendancy of religious education in its place. Because the American public rejects this ultimate goal, they must work towards it by engineering crisises like our current situation. If it took 10 years for policies of the early '90s to yield results, that's okay! Killing public schools is a long term goal.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Google Earth

Years ago, before I gave birth to Anna, I used to find myself on our roof every September, straddling the peak, looking down at my family in the yard. Usually my husband was shouting directions to me about our TV antenna or some other job that needed doing, but sometimes I just took advantage of the ladder leaning against the backside of the house to scoot up and see what the world looked like from on high. The September sun lit up my family from the same angle as my perspective; they seemed to have the world's spotlight on them.

I don't do this much anymore. When we put the addition on our house we put a new roof on that half of the house. You don't traipse all over a new roof like you do a roof that's going to be replaced soon. When cable internet became available I finally bit the bullet and got cable TV, so now we don't have a TV antenna to maintain. With older teenagers, I hardly see my family all in one place at all, let alone from a bird's eye view.

But here's what we look like. This is an image from Google Earth, a new download from Google that accesses a huge cache of satellite photos to make an easy to use picture of the entire earth.

Our house is the largest building, the one with the two tone roof and the driveway/walkway seeming to point at it. The barn is directly behind the house. Richard's shop is the dark-roofed building on the right. The odd dark blob in front of his shop is our big pine tree, melded with its own shadow in the image. Between the shop and our house is a bare spot in the yard with a dark dot in the middle of it. The dot is Anna's tower, the one that is behind her in the sunflower picture of the last post.

I deduce that this picture was taken in late June, judging from the shadows and the fact that my garden is already shrouded in weeds. If I read the documentation I could find out how often the pictures are updated, but none of us have read the documentation yet. It is too much fun to just type in an address and go there.

And you do go there. Anna has been following the roads from our house and checking out her friends' houses and her favorite beaches. She types in "Boulder, Colorado" and the image pulls back from our house and the earth below spins until it zooms in on Boulder. She sees much of the same landscape that she saw while actually flying there. She can go to Africa or Hawaii or Chicago the same way.

Not all neighborhoods are depicted in such detail. Just north of us, in Leland proper, the image is just different colored green pixels. My folks' house in Lockport, NY is a detailed image, but older, with no leaves on the trees.

Google Earth seems to have features aimed at prospective tourists, but they fall short in our area. Asking it to mark restaurants, it tells us that you can eat at a Ben Franklin's in Lake Leelanau. There is no Ben Franklin's in Lake Leelanau, and I've never been to any Ben Franklin's that served food. Oh well, when you live in a rural area you are forever having to deal with city people's preconceptions.

Seeing our house from above (and knowing that anyone else can see it) raises some interesting possibilities. Richard wants to write a message in the driveway. I'm wondering how long before farmers are planting corporate logos into their cornfields. We are both inclined to do something highly visible in the yard so that we can see how long it takes to update. Maybe we should just finish the roof.

Google Earth is free. You have to download the program from earth.google.com.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Family Photos

My brother and sister were here with their families last week. Someone took these pictures, but it wasn't me.

This is my sister Amy and my sister-in-law Wendy relaxing while their kids and Moonbeam the dog impersonate whirling dervishes at their feet. The camera angle suggests that Anna took the picture, but I don't know for sure. At first it looks like the dog is attacking baby Bella, but that's really Shelagh's (I think) arm.

These are the younger set of cousins on my front porch. Anna and Nathan are on the top step, Madison and Zachary are in the middle, and Jack and then Bella are at the bottom. There were several pictures in this group, but this one is the closest to presentable.

The other pictures looked something like this:

Here I did take the photo, but I didn't plant the sunflower. I wonder, these days, why Jack didn't climb a sunflower to giant heaven, as the trunks of these volunteers are bigger around than my arm.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Blogger has added a new feature that lets me post pictures directly onto my blog without using another program, I can also post multiple pictures without having to post them as separate entries then cutting and pasting.

Here is a photo of the beautiful rainbow that appeared the evening of Jim Concannon's funeral.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Harry Houdini, Girlie Rooster

Harry Houdini sitting on eggs.

My original plan for this flock was to have a variety of my favorite breeds of hens, including some Partridge Rocks because I have had good luck getting them to brood eggs and raise chicks. I would keep one Partridge Rock rooster to fertilize the eggs and hopefully end up with some purebred Partridge Rocks in the next generation.

Answering the phone early one morning before I was fully awake, I agreed to take 3 young birds that my neighbor was getting rid of. It was too early to think straight and I didn't ask the sex until they were in the driveway. Suddenly I had two roosters in my flock. The new rooster was not just new, but he was of a breed (Red Leghorn, I think) that was bred for egg production only, so he would never grow as large as our dual purpose Partridge Rock.

But he was smart and he was quick. He soon learned to zip out of the pen at any opportunity, earning himself the moniker "Harry Houdini". We sang to him the song from Ragtime:
Harry Houdini, master escapist
Master at getting by

At first he got by simply hiding in the corner. Later he learned to blend in with the hens. He blended so well that after they moved into the barn for winter I often had a hard time seeing him at all and thought that he had escaped again. I would have to study the hens for several minutes before I could pick him out.

By spring, it was clear that his camoflage was not just behavioral. He was not growing spurs, even though he was the same age as our big rooster. This was when he started sitting on eggs. He will sit in the box, quietly spread out over the eggs, intently staring into space. If you reach toward him to get the eggs he suddenly erupts, racing for the door and screaming that high pitched "Whoob, whoob, whoob, whoob....." that the Three Stooges made so famous.

I'm guessing that the Three Stooges learned that sound from a girlie rooster. Certainly in their heyday everyone kept chickens . Audiences in the 1930's were much more attuned to the variety of chicken behaviors than today's audiences. Could it be that the "Whoob, whoob, whoob" sound was shorthand for "guy acting like a girl," a joke that we just don't get today?

My internet search on "rooster acts like hen" turned up many accounts of hens acting like roosters.
A bulletin board at The-coop.org has many first hand accounts of older hens that grew tail feathers and started to crow. I was intrigued by the story that "In 1774 A 'cock' named Basil was burned at the stake as witchcraft for crowing and laying eggs." Talk about a flock mentality!

There is an account of rooster who steal eggs at something called Tasomit but he claims that chickens have actual sex-change abilities because of an "undifferentiated gonad" that can change into either an ovary or a teste. Methinks this is another nut case.

As always, I go looking for one thing and I find something else fascinating. At a site called the Easy Chicken I found an article called Keeping Your Rooster Sane. The author outlines the basics of the chicken coop social order and gives tips on how to make your rooster respect you, although he admits that he has to "stew pot" his share of roosters.

Our big guy is headed that way. Pecking the butt of the woman that feeds you is not on the path to a long and happy life. I'm guessing that once the Alpha Male is dinner, Harry Houdini will start to crow, strut, cover hens, and grow spurs.

I'm interested: anyone out there ever had an egg setting rooster?