Friday, June 17, 2016

B is for Butterfly (and Beautiful)

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Last summer, the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut, installed a temporary butterfly exhibit called Flutter Zone, where visitors could walk amongst dozens of beautiful butterflies. The exhibit was such a hit that the aquarium mounted it again this summer.

As I finished with work early yesterday, I decided to go visit the Flutter Zone -- along with a dozen or so mothers of small, awestruck children, including the cutie above, whom the butterflies, and my camera, adored.

If you live in Connecticut, Westchester, or New York City, or are visiting the area this summer, I highly recommend you visit the Maritime Aquarium... even if you don't have children. ;-)

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite photos from yesterday's visit. One of these days, I'll learn the names of these butterflies, and the flowers they like to pollinate. (You can see my photos from last year here.)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rethinking who can be President of the United States

If this election cycle has taught us anything it's that we need to fix the electoral process -- starting with the qualifications necessary to run for and serve as President of the United States.

Per Article Two, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America:
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Clearly, it is time to amend the Constitution (again).

First of all, how many people today were around "at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution"?

Secondly, does it really matter any more where a person was born as long as he -- OR SHE -- is a citizen of the United States and has been a resident within the United States for at least 14 years?

(The correct answer to that question is "no.")

And thirdly, while back in 1787, when most people didn't live past 41, 35 was considered old. Today, with people living into their 80s, not so much. So I say we should raise the minimum age to be president to 40 -- make that 45.

But most importantly, we need to make sure that the person ascending to the highest office of the land is sound in both mind and body -- and able to carry out the duties of President of the United States.

To that end, I propose the following amendment to Section 1 of Article Two of the Constitution, which I call Qualifications to Be President of the United States:

* Must be at least 45 years of age.
* Must be a citizen of the United States and have resided within the United States for at least 14 years.
* Must undergo a complete physical and mental health examination overseen by a board of certified, nonpartisan medical professionals and be considered to be of sound mind and body.
* Must take and pass a four-hour, closed-book examination [similar to the AP exams] covering U.S. History and Government, as well as World History.
* Must produce his or her tax returns for the four years prior to the year of election.

All in favor, say "Aye!"

Of course, even if such qualifications were somehow enacted, you would still get unsavory characters running for president. But at least they would, hopefully, diaqualify the Trumps (and Palins) of the world.

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.