Sunday, September 28, 2008

Skitter the Budgie

When a friend of ours became ill, we took her birds for her. The doctor said she couldn't have them any more. There was Mirage the cockatiel, and the two budgies, Skitter and Sherbert.


We loved them, and they got along well with our cockatiel Pearl. Unfortunately, Mirage was an elderly, unhealthy bird who died after we had only had her about six months.


Well, Skitter was also elderly, although we only learned about that when he fell ill recently. I told his former owner, and that was the first thing she said. He's old. He's had a good life. Please don't feel bad about not taking him to the vet (my decision) because there's almost no chance it would make a difference. (Did you know vets will now do MRIs on birds? I couldn't go through that without a stronger chance of a good outcome making the emotional and financial cost worthwhile.) Thank you for giving him a loving home.

Skitter died early Saturday morning. I held him for a long time on Saturday; it was clear he wasn't going to make it but he hung on for a long time. Maya and Ziad decided not to eat meat on Saturday as a gesture of respect and remembrance.


He was such a sweet little bird. Friendly and happy in that adorable budgie way. We'll miss him.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Debate

I ended up watching the debate last night. It turned out way better than I expected. I pretty much agree with this assesment of McCain from Bitch, Ph.D.

Standing up on that stage, he seemed like a reasonable candidate for the Republicans to have chosen, unlike the rest of the time where his flurry of surrogates, and his attempts to be a Republican, a maverick, and appeal to the Christian conservative base all at the same time make him seem utterly incoherent. Tonight, at least when he was talking, he seemed okay.

McCain did some things that left me puzzled, though. In his first two-minute speech, he came out strongly against corporate greed. He actually used those exact words. Previous conversations with other conservatives had given me the impression that mentioning corporate greed instantly brands you as a liberal. So what gives? He also came out strongly against excessive spending by the Department of Defense. I could not agree with him more on that point, but then later, when he talked about a spending freeze, he specifically excluded the defense spending. So I was surprised twice, first to hear a Republican criticize defense spending, and then to hear him apparently contradict himself about it later on.

To be honest, if he had a remotely credible candidate for Vice President, I would have felt very reassured by this debate. But again, I had to wonder. McCain really obsessed about earmarks. I thought he made a very good point about the corruption that seems to follow the Federal budget money. The thing is, Sarah Palin has been very aggressive in pursuing earmark money for Alaska, and very unapologetic about it, too. Alaska first, is how she put it, I believe. Isn't it a little odd for him to choose her for VP, and then make every effort to depict her as an anti-earmark maverick like himself?*

Which brings me to my last, non debate-related point. These animal comparisons are getting to me. A maverick is a cow that goes against the herd. Since the herd instinct is there to protect its members, a maverick is by definition a cow that acts in a way not in its own self-interest, or to put it another way, a cow that doesn't know what's good for it. A stupid cow. A cow that doesn't listen. I've had enough of presidents that don't listen. And the hockey mom/pitbull with lipstick thing? I don't like pit bulls. Why would I like someone who feels that comparing herself to one is a good thing? Yeah, tenacity can be a good quality, but carried to pit-bull extremes it becomes a negative. Again, our current administration has manifested this quality in spades, and I don't think it's worked out particularly well.

Getting back to the debate, it's kind of ironic (there's that word again) that the candidate who is promoting himself as the strong-minded, go his own way maverick would chide Obama about being stubborn. Rings kind of hollow in my opinion.

*If he wants to say that she has seen the light since deciding to accept the VP nomination, that pretty much knocks down his argument about Obama only seeing reason about earmark spending since he decided to run. Apparently it's OK to have your own political candidacy open your eyes to new viewpoints.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Early morning conversation:

Me: Oh, by the way, we're leaving early on Friday. I'm taking the kids down to Casa de Fruta.

Husband: Why?

Me: They have some kind of history workshop. Something to do with the Renaissance Faire.

Husband: That's not very good.

Me: What?

Husband: Taking the kids around to all those places. That's not very green.

Me: That's true. (pause) What's your point?

Husband: You're not very green.

Me: Hell, honey, I know that.

Here's how not green I am lately:

Tuesday: guitar class, library, and mall in Santa Clara; Whole Foods and park in Campbell

Wednesday: piano lessons in Almaden, chorus and errands in Willow Glen

Thursday: guitar class in Santa Clara, electronics class in Palo Alto

Friday: history workshop at Renaissance Faire in Gilroy

Saturday: guitar class in Santa Clara

Sunday: Scharffen Berger plant in Berkeley (to see my dad)

Monday: STAY HOME!!!! ALL DAY!!!! To hell with grocery shopping, even.

P.S. Thank you guys. It turns out that one phone call and one e-mail are all I need to get my energy back. It's amazing.


Thursday, September 25, 2008


I'm tired, I'm hungry, my house is out of control. I'm overscheduled and uninspired, discontented and dispirited. Life sucks.


Pumpkin time is almost here.


I see the hay being strewn on vacant lots all over time -- pumpkin patches are on their way. Fall birthdays are coming, holidays are around the corner.

The weather is perfect. Life is good.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

It's only flip-flopping if you're a Democrat

John McCain: Against regulations before he was for them

Sarah Palin: For the bridge to nowhere before she was for it

Hey, I don't have a problem with this. I think it's good to be able to change your mind. Especially if you were wrong to start with. Actually admitting you were wrong to start with? That takes real character. I'm not holding my breath.

Just to spell things out, I'm not all "Ooh, bridge to nowhere -- bad!" No, I'm more "Ooh, Sarah Palin -- not quite the maverick she wants you to think she is."

And for those of you who like irony, how about the sight of a couple of politicians posing as mavericks (independent thinkers, not going along with the herd, blah blah blah) in order to make themselves more popular? When you think about it, it's really pretty funny.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


From that liberal rag, The Economist,

Mr McCain has also been caught telling some straightforward fibs, for example that Mrs Palin, as governor, had “never” sought federal earmark money for her state—her request per head for Alaska was the biggest in the country. He and Mrs Palin continue to insist that she killed an infamous “bridge to nowhere” project in Alaska, even though every journalist in America now knows she did so only after supporting it, and only after it became a political albatross. Mr McCain has good reason to worry about his reputation for straight-talk, the strongest part of his political brand.

Also, an interesting article in Newsweek, placing the blame for the current economic problems largely on Alan Greenspan. I, however, also blame John McCain, who co-sponsored legislation in late 1999 that deregulated financial markets, and on Bill Clinton, who signed that legislation. Which helps me remember why I never really liked Bill Clinton, and also makes me wonder why Republicans hate him. God knows he cooperated with them often enough. Which brings me to my last point, which is that this current crisis is not a failure of one party or another. It is a failure of the whole laissez-faire, free-market will sort it out, let the people do their thing philosophy. Regardless of whether this is espoused by Republicans or Democrats.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Are homeschoolers disadvantaged?

Interesting debate over at


Friday, September 12, 2008

Courtesy of Nabil


See you Wednesday!
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blatantly untrue:

This ad

What I am not interested in: whether this means John McCain is a liar, or just a politican, or whether there is in fact any difference between these two things.

What I am interested in: people who believe this ad are being misled.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where's Robin Hood when you really need him?

This report is from the Tax Policy Center, and is well worth reading. Never heard of them? Neither had I. Here's what they say on their website:

Who We Are

The Tax Policy Center is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The Center is made up of nationally recognized experts in tax, budget, and social policy who have served at the highest levels of government.

What We Do

TPC provides timely, accessible analysis and facts about tax policy to policymakers, journalists, citizens, and researchers. Its major products are

* Model estimates: The TPC Microsimulation Model produces revenue and distribution estimates for the latest tax proposals and bills. More information about the tax model is available in the overview and FAQ.

* Library: Research by TPC staff is disseminated in a variety of publications, including two TPC series - Issues and Options briefs and Discussion papers. The TPC also has regular columns in Tax Notes magazine.

* Tax Facts: The Tax Facts database compiles facts and figures from government agencies and other sources.

If the whole report seems too boring, there is a chart at the bottom of page 3 that provides a nice picture of their results. The Washington Post also has a nice graphic.

CNN's summary:

McCain: The average taxpayer in every income group would see a lower tax bill, but high-income taxpayers would benefit more than everyone else.

Obama: High-income taxpayers would pay more in taxes, while everyone else's tax bill would be reduced. Those who benefit the most - in terms of reducing their taxes as a percentage of after-tax income - are in the lowest income groups.

My observation:

For people whose incomes are in the middle, the plans are roughly equivalent, although Obama's has a slight edge. It's only when you get into the upper income levels that McCain's plans provide a noticeable benefit.

Yes, I really think it's time Donald Trump got those tax breaks he deserves so richly.