Thursday, May 19, 2016

House finch/cowbird nestlings update

When last I wrote of the house finches (on the blog), back on April 29th, this is what their nest looked like:

[Click on photos to enlarge them.]

Very pretty, very empty.

Then, on May 8th, I took this photo of the nest:

As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, the four blue eggs are house finch eggs. However, the brown-speckled egg belonged to a cowbird, a parasitic bird that lays its eggs in other birds' nests and expects someone else to feed its young (often depriving the host bird's chicks sufficient nourishment).

Then, earlier this week, I glimpsed into the nest and discovered that the evil cowbird chick had hatched:

Anticipating that the four house finch eggs were soon to follow, I went back out to the nest with my smart phone just a few minutes ago to be greeted by this sight:

That image of the cowbird nestling waiting to be fed is going to give me nightmares FOR WEEKS.

Will the four baby house finches survive?

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

2016 Democratic Primary Race Vote Update (No throwing chairs!)

So when this blog last printed the vote totals for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, back on April 27th, Hillary was leading Bernie by just over 3 million votes. So where do the Democratic candidates for President now stand?

Here is my updated table showing 2016 Democratic Primary & Caucus Vote Totals:

[Click on the image to enlarge it.]

As of this writing (with 96% of the votes reported for Oregon, which was the latest total as of this writing), Hillary Clinton is still leading Bernie Sanders -- by 2,890,670 votes.

Put in delegate terms, Clinton leads Sanders by 274 pledged delegates (which does not include super delegates), with Clinton having 1,768 pledged delegates and Sanders amassing 1,494 pledged delegates.

A few interesting facts about the recent Democratic contests:

* Hillary "crushed" Bernie in Guam, winning 59.5% of the vote to Bernie's 40.5%. Which just goes to show you how you need to read beyond the headlines. While it is true that Hillary, percentage-wise, "crushed" Bernie, in terms of actual votes, it wasn't a big deal -- 777 (Clinton) to 528 (Sanders).

* Clinton and Sanders were each awarded 27 delegates in Kentucky, even though, technically, Hillary "won." That's because the Democrats use the proportional method (which is not to be confused with the rhythm method, though can be just as or more confusing) of awarding delegates to candidates.

* States with large white populations (especially white, male, working class and/or young, white, male populations) and low black and Hispanic populations tend to vote Sanders whereas states that "look like the Democratic party" (i.e., are more diverse) tend to vote Clinton, which would seem to predict wins for Clinton in California and New Jersey (two delegate-rich states) and possibly New Mexico.

NEXT UP, contest-wise: The U.S. Virgin Islands on 6/4; Puerto Rico on 6/5; California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota on 6/7; and Washington, D.C., on 6/14. So expect my next update on 6/8.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Love is in the air: House finch update

Big news, fellow bird watchers! I believe the house finches' nest is ready for some tenants!

Here are pictures of the love birds' completed nest, which I took just a few minutes ago. Here's what the nest looks like standing in front of our front door (on a step stool)...

And here is the closeup:

Isn't it beautiful? Those house finches could be professional exterior decorators.

And here's a photo I took of the happy (?) couple, aka Gertie and Atticus Finch, throwing me some shade from the little conifer just outside our front door (while I took the photo from inside the front door).

(I don't get why the house finches, and our other avian visitors, take off as soon as they see me but totally ignore our bird-loving felines.)

Will check the nest for eggs next weekend. Seems the house finches are behind schedule this year. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hillary and Bernie Election 2016: The voters have spoken (again)

Before Super Tuesday IV, or the Acela Primary (as some pundits had been calling it), Hillary Clinton had been leading Bernie Sanders by over 2.5 million votes. Yesterday, Clinton increased her lead to just over 3 million votes, as you can see from my updated 2016 Democratic Primary & Caucus Vote Totals table below. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Of note, Clinton beat Sanders nearly 2 to 1 -- 533,656 vs. 281,700 votes -- in Maryland and by nearly 200,000 votes in Pennsylvania (918,649 vs. 719,911 votes), which was and is considered a must-win state in both the primaries and in the general election.

Connecticut was a bit of a nail biter, with Clinton ultimately beating Sanders by about 17,000 votes (169,763 vs. 152,895 votes). However, Sanders beat Clinton in Rhode Island, by a margin of 14,000, which was less than the margin of the Clinton wins, including Connecticut and Delaware, where she beat Sanders by over 19,000 votes.

Of course, as we all (or most -- or some -- of us) know, it's not ultimately votes that get you to the party convention and win you the nomination but delegates. Though in most states it's votes that get you delegates. And as of 7:30 this morning, Hillary Clinton had 1,640 pledge delegates to Bernie Sanders 1,331 pledged delegates*. Add in super delegates (who, btw, have never decided or compromised an election, voting with the majority of voters) and Hillary's total rises to 2,159 delegates and Bernie's to 1,370 -- with the magic number to win the Democratic nomination being 2,383.

Unless you believe in Bernie Math (see below) and unicorns, it seems pretty clear at this point that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2016.

To be continued...?

*Depending on which news organization's number you use.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mom cat adopts newborn puppy (The cutest thing you will see all day)

So I just came across this video from the Michigan Humane Society, about a days-old puppy who lost its mom (killed in a car accident) and was "adopted" by a cat who had recently had a litter of kittens and was still nursing.

This may be one of the cutest, sweetest things I have ever seen. And if that video -- and story -- doesn't warm your heart and make you smile, you either hate animals or are a robot.

FYI, the puppy, Bobby, a Chihuahua, is now 5 weeks old and still living with his feline foster family. No word as to whether Bobby is meowing or barking.

You may now return to your Monday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hillary, Bernie + How New York Voted: Election 2016 Democratic Vote Update

So which Democratic candidate did New Yorkers vote for in the 2016 presidential primary? Was it Bernie, the Bro from Brooklyn, who left the City in 1960 to attend the University of Chicago, settled in Vermont in 1968, and went on to serve in the House of Representatives and the Senate representing Vermont (as an Independent, not a Democrat)?

Or was it the carpetbagger, Hillary, who grew up in Illinois, attended Wellesley in the 1960s, and then lived most of the 1970s and 1980s in Arkansas before moving to D.C. in 1993 and to Chappaqua, New York, in 1999 -- going on to represent her adopted state of New York as Senator in the 2000s (and serving as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013)?

Even if you are not a news junkie (as I am), you probably already know that Hillary Clinton won the New York primary election -- and by a significant amount. What is a "significant" amount, you ask? With 98 percent of precincts having reported, Clinton had 1,037,344 votes while Bernie Sanders had 752,739. So Clinton beat Sanders by more than 250,000 votes -- or, put another way, by 16 percent.

Bernie Sanders had a strong showing in upstate New York, especially in rural areas touching or close to his home state of Vermont. (For those of you geographically challenged, Vermont is right next to the Northeast corner of New York State.) However, Hillary Clinton dominated the New York City metro area, i.e., New York City, Long Island, and Westchester -- and won in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, too.

So where do the candidates now stand, in terms of total number of votes (as opposed to delegates)? Here's my latest table, which now includes Wyoming, where approximately 7,000 Democrats caucused earlier this month, and New York, a closed primary state, where nearly 1.8 million Democrats voted.

[Click on the table to enlarge it.]

So, as of today, Wednesday, April 20, more than 10.6 million people have voted for Hillary Clinton and more than 8 million have voted for Bernie Sanders. And Hillary leads Bernie by close to 2.6 million votes.

However, as most people know, it's not total votes that count or win elections, it's delegates. And Clinton currently has 1,446 pledged delegates (based on contests she has won), whereas Sanders has 1,200 pledged delegates (based on contests he has won). And when it comes to super, or unpledged, delegates, Clinton has 502 versus Sanders's 38. The magic number to win the Democratic nomination: 2,383.

While it is not impossible for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president, it's not going to be easy. And before any of you start squawking about the nominating process, I KNOW. It seems totally unfair, especially to Bernie supporters. But it is what it is -- and the system was set up long before Hillary ever ran for President. And even if you hate the delegate system, Clinton is still leading Sanders by nearly 2.6 million votes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's not easy being a beauty queen

When I was growing up, if I was complaining about having a bad hair day, or my weight, or zits, my father, may he rest in peace (or be playing scratch golf somewhere in Heaven, or wherever), would always say to me, "It's not easy being a beauty queen."

Dad, you didn't know the half of it. And thank goodness I wasn't (and am still not) a beauty queen.

Most men don't realize all the grueling grooming and primping beauty queen contestants go through. And I'm not even talking about boob jobs, liposuction, or other cosmetic surgery. I'm talking about all the dieting and exercise -- and the tweezing, shaving, waxing, and/or electrolysis they endure, just so they can look good strutting down a runway in high heels and a bikini.

Of course, it's no longer just beauty queens who endure often painful or uncomfortable treatments in order to achieve some level of what modern society deems "beauty," or "beautiful." Business is booming for cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists and waxing and beauty salons. And just try and watch TV without seeing an ad for some female personal grooming product, like this one entitled "Topiary" for Schick's Hydro Silk TrimStyle razor*:

[Memo to the folks at Schick: I don't care how sharp your razor is. No way is it sculpting a heart, or a rectangle or triangle, on my or any other woman's "bikini area." And the rash you would get afterward kind of defeats the purpose.]

Is some personal grooming bad? No. (Which reminds me, I need to get my hair cut. The stuff on top of my head, guys. Geez.) But I worry about the message society is sending to young girls and women about what really matters -- not brains or good deeds but perfect skin and perfect bodies and not having hair someplace other than on their heads.

Maybe instead of buying a Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle we women should purchase a copy of Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever: The Making of a Happy Woman by Judy Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy, a successful, respected woman who has an estimated net worth of $250 million -- a lot more than most beauty queens.

*Okay, you are probably way more likely to see ads for cars and trucks, and beer, and hair restorers than see an ad for the Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle, or Palmer's Cocoa Butter, on ESPN or NBC or CBS Sports, or on Football Sunday. But you never know.