Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Gave You A Long Look

On Tuesday night, I got an odd email from a person I didn't know. It said simply, "We'll be shelving tomorrow night at 7:30. Hope to see you there." Because I work in a library and have no intention of freelancing, I wrote back to ask who the writer was, shelving what and where - and I didn't use the word fucking even once. The Mystery Writer responded that the food pantry blocks from my house was looking for volunteers the following night. Then I stopped swearing with my inside voice. The times I've sorted stuff at the food pantry followed all hands on deck emergency calls, but this was not that. Though curious about ordinary activities at the food pantry, I was also concerned that stress on my hip would force me out before the work was completed.

Turns out I needn't have worried: three middle-aged women, another in her thirties and six teenage girls sorted donated items for half an hour at a high rate of speed, then tossed around cases of industrial-size canned goods, then composed bags the food pantry distributes to its clients once a month, I believe I heard. I'm not entirely sure, since I was running my tail off and tossing off one-liners. We cleaned up the room and left in place a satisfying arrangement and quantity of those special bags. I explained that emails to me must contain information such as who and what they're talking about and surprisingly no one punched me. Admittedly, the ache when I sat down concerned me, but the next morning, I told Lupe about how much fun volunteering was and Lupe intimated that after exams, she'd like to join in. The food pantry needs Wednesday night help every two weeks. It really is that easy.

In our backyard, lettuce seedlings in containers are just about ready to live outside the greenhouse. It's not really a greenhouse. It's a clear plastic tent, but it serves the purpose: as soon as the tender seedlings are ready to live outdoors, younger seedlings can be transplanted into containers. In the kitchen, we thought long and hard about it and decided that we should be eating organic, cage-free eggs, which cost about $1-$1.50 more per dozen than eggs where the chickens lived in grisly factory farm conditions. These eggs were so pretty Pete took their picture. It matters how animals are fed and treated, you know? Kind of a lot like it matters to people.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Angel Hair And Baby's Breath

The footage from Haiti is heartbreaking. The blogosphere is full of advice about donating to relief efforts, but just in case you happen to find yourself here at a decisive moment:

The American Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders


Mercy Corps

Search Dog Foundation


Someone I trust recommended Partners In Health, though I can't personally vouch for them.

For the long road ahead:

Habitat For Humanity

Let us hope today is a better day for the Haitian people than yesterday was, and tomorrow is better than today.


Monday, August 24, 2009

I've Got Mine She Got Latin Roots

The other day, I was packing up to ride home when I realized the holes next to my back pockets had gone from glamorously threadbare to thrillingly gaping. Fortunately, the temperature was in the nineties and I didn't have a jacket, so I pedaled two miles with an exciting rear view, and now I have a pair of jeans I can't wear without plaid body makeup. According to, anyone with an exposed flank could strip down and step up.
The COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive is a call-to-action to donate denim and give it “new life” by converting it to UltraTouch™ Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation. The insulation is then provided to communities in need to assist with building efforts. UltraTouch™ is composed of 85% recycled cotton fibers and is an environmentally safe, non-itch insulation without carcinogenic warnings, formaldehyde or chemical irritants. It provides exceptional thermal performance and acoustically provides 30% better sound absorption than traditional fiberglass insulation. In addition, it is one of the only insulating products that contains an active mold/mildew inhibitor.


Currently, 75,000 sq. ft. of insulation is being manufactured from the 2008 collections. Habitat for Humanity affiliates will be receiving insulation in the spring of 2009. Cotton Incorporated its and partners will participate in installing the insulation in approximately 75 houses as a means of providing much needed housing for areas of the country affected by natural disasters. Since the start of the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive in 2006, the program has received a total of 89,799 pieces of denim and provided over 185,000 sq. ft. of UltraTouch™ Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation to help build 180 homes at Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the Gulf Coast Region.

Got scouts? Got sophomores with a community service requirement? Got ennui? Consider holding a denim drive! Contact these able do-gooders and talk it over.

An addendum: on Sunday, I found myself sulking in the Sears Levi's section. Buying clothes is a horror show, especially when a person now needs a decoder ring, a friend to read the tag on her butt and a compass to find the right fit, and the Sears employee putting hangers in order points to a rack of sweatpants. It is impossible to feel badass in misses stretch jeans.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Am Everyday People

This is vile. It happens all the time, which only makes it worse.
Request for Action from the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA):

Cirila Baltazar Cruz gave birth to her baby girl in November of 2008 at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MS. She speaks very little Spanish and no English, as her native language is Chatino, an Indigenous language from Oaxaca, Mexico that is spoken by some 50,000 people.

The hospital provided her with an “interpreter” who is from Puerto Rico and does not speak Chatino, the language of the mother. Because of the language barrier and the misunderstanding by the hospital’s interpreter who only spoke Spanish and English, a social worker was called in.

The hospital’s social worker reported “evidence” of abuse and neglect based on the following:

* The “baby was born to an illegal [sic] immigrant;”
* The “mother had not purchased a crib, clothes, food or formula.” (Most Latina mothers breast feed their babies).
* “She does not speak English which puts baby in danger.”

Ms. Baltazar Cruz’s baby was snatched from her after birth at the hospital and given to an affluent attorney couple from the posh Ocean Springs who cannot have children.

The authorities made no effort to locate an interpreter in her native tongue. MIRA located an interpreter who is fluent in Chatino in Los Angeles CA and has interviewed the mother extensively with the interpreters help. The mother has been accused of being poor and not being able to provide for this child. No one has asked the mother to provide evidence of support. She owns a home in Mexico and a store which provides both secure shelter and financial support, not counting the nurturing of a loving family of two other siblings, a grandmother, aunts, uncles and other extended family.

Meanwhile, there is word in the Gulf Coast community that the “parents to be,” have already had a baby shower celebrating the “blessed arrival” of this STOLEN child!


If you believe this is unjust and outrageous and goes against all moral and religious beliefs and values, please call or write to the presiding Judge and the MS Department of Human Services to STOP this ILLEGAL ADOPTION! Stealing US born babies from immigrant parents is a growing epidemic in the United States. Many Latino parents have lost their children this way!

Honorable Judge Sharon Sigalas
Youth Justice Court of Jackson County
4903 Telephone Rd.
Pascagoula, MS 39567

Children’s Justice Act Program
MS Dept. of Human Services
750 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39202
Call (601)359-4499 and ask for Barbara Proctor

For more information please call MIRA at: (601) 968-5182

MIRA Organizing Coordinator
Victoria Cintra at (228) 234-1697 or Organizer Socorro Leos at(228) 731-0831

Between 800-1000 people read this blog every day. You could do some real good in the world by making a couple of polite phone calls.


Monday, December 01, 2008

The Nights We Harmonized 'Til Dawn

I never settled into November. It seemed kind of makeshift this year, what with the strange weather changes, unexpected events and that wedding smack in the middle. I'll get back to that. It was packed with pathos and mortifying eighties music, and my relatives, who are very funny with mini quiches and an open bar. Anyway, November came and went and I can't say I'll miss it. Our backyard is full of muddy leaves. One of the tenants is moving out today so the front yard is full of broken mattresses. Over the long weekend, I had two whole days to rest, launder and mediate between warring cat factions. All of these things are small, vanishingly small.

Today is World AIDS Day.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Run Like A River That Runs

From the Pretty Bird Woman House: They need towels.
Hi everyone,

If you're coming here looking for things to donate around the holidays, check out the right side of this blog for a complete list of ongoing donation needs for the shelter.

HOWEVER, since women are constantly coming and going, right now there is an urgent need for towels. So if you're cleaning out your linen closet, or looking for something to buy, think TOWELS.

Word has it that Linens 'N Things is going out of business and has cheap towels now...We've also had a Yahoo Groups member order them from Anna's Linens.

Once again, thank you for all your support. This means the world to the women on the Standing Rock Reservation.

Posted by Betsy Campisi at 10:51 AM

Linens & Things is going out of business. Right now, everything is selling at a discount. I was planning to buy new towels for myself, but now I feel inspired! The address where you can mail donations is:
Pretty Bird Woman House
211 First Ave W.
McLaughlin, SD 57642

Scope out Linens & Things' towels: they range in price between $2.39 and $11.99. Can you imagine, as Thanksgiving approaches? For less than $10, you can really help someone in need.

Please pass the news.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Make Some Book Of Records

Remember this cast of characters from December, 2005?
Dad is a decisive person weighing his options.

Dad: InExcelsisDeo's son graduates from military mechanic school in Pittsburgh on the 23rd.
Tata: That date can only have been set by a man whose wife wipes his nose, and to whom he doesn't listen. Fucker!
Dad: Do you kiss babies with that mouth?
Tata: What did you say when you heard about it?
Dad: "What fucking madness."
Tata: Moving on, then...
Dad: Your brother Todd comes in from California on the 30th and stays until the 2nd.
Tata: Really? I knew he'd be here at some point.
Dad: And Dara has to have Christmas with her mother and be back to school on the 2nd. I can only make one trip. What are your plans?
Tata: Gluttony and sloth. Tell me when and where, and I'm there.
Dad: My problem is I promised my sister I'd make Christmas Eve dinner, since she will be out of town until appetizers are plated.
Tata: Don't worry. My sister, my cousins and I will do it.

OH MY GOD! Did you see that coming? Because I didn't!

Dad: How's the apartment?
Tata: I'm considering piling the remaining boxes in front of a vulnerable window and calling it my burglar alarm. I may leave it for my grandchildren to incinerate when they cart me off to the home!
Dad: Serves 'em right! Bastards!
Tata: They're cashing my social security checks! I would!

So Dad's staying three hundred miles away for Italian Christmas Eve. This morning, panic set in when Auntie InExcelsisDeo agreed to let the Girl Gang do the cooking because there just isn't any other way that doesn't involve folding our arms and blinking forth Emeril. I call my cousin Sandy, eight months older than Miss Sasha, most of a foot taller and 100% more local. Sandy's temporarily bunking in at Auntie InExcelsisDeo's family compound in South Brunswick, which gives us access to modern on-site refrigeration in the absence of the homeowner. And salmon!

Tata: Your sister told your mother who told my sister who told me that she, your sister Monday, wanted to make the chicken and polenta.
Sandy: Monday wants to eat the chicken and polenta.
Tata: What do you want to cook?
Sandy: I can't cook.
Tata: Fine. You'll make Edith's bean salad. We'll make the manicotti together. You'll make shrimp pose seductively in a circle.
Tata: Are you in traffic?
Sandy: Bumper to bumper.
Tata: You are a danger to yourself and others. Doesn't your boyfriend have a Costco card?
Sandy: He does.
Tata: Keep your eyes on the road. If you crash, he might be too busy whining about what a marvelous person you were to go shopping for your family. You're so selfish!

If you read the stories leading up to Miss Sasha's wedding, you know Daria, Monday, Sandy and I are now lined up to play a mixed doubles game of YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME! Daria calls.

Daria: Did Daddy call you?
Tata: Daddy called me.
Daria: Did you talk to Auntie InExcelsisDeo?
Tata: I talked to Auntie InExcelsisDeo.
Daria: Do you know why he's not coming?
Tata: He's coming, just later. Todd's coming later.
Daria: Stop talking to me like that!
Tata: You stop talking to me like that!
Daria: Don't be so bossy!
Tata: You don't be so bossy!
Daria: I'm going to hang up on you in a minute!
Tata: Pot to Black Kettle! Come in, Black Kettle!
Daria: You taking the right half and I'm taking the left half of the buffet?
Tata: I talked to Sandy. She's psyched. We're going to cook.
Daria: Oh my God, Sandy's going to cook?
Tata: We have boyfriends, fiances, cousins and spare moms. With any luck, we will also have other help. It's going to be fine.
Daria: Are you drunk? They let you drink on university property? Hello!
Tata: We'll put appetizers on every flat surface and make Monday bake something into dessert-like submission. And fuck anybody who complains.
Daria: My husband will handle the meats.
Tata: ...And there's my cue to hang up.

If I had money, I'd hire a camera crew and a bulletproof director. If I were smart, I'd hide the fondue forks. I don't, and I'm not, so it's stuffed mushrooms and a side of SHUT UP AND DICE for me!

Remember? You do? Congratulations! Meet Auntie InExcelsisDeo, relentless do-goodererer.

The Winner of a Nationwide Contest Gets a Well-Deserved Holiday Makeover
After a nationwide contest, Vern surprises a very deserving [Auntie InExcelsisDeo] with a makeover just in time for the holidays. She has taken in families in need, fed the hungry and made quilts for disaster victims, the homeless and soldiers' families. Vern creates a beautiful kitchen and dining room in French country style for [Auntie]. And downstairs, her brand new laundry room comes complete with an area perfect for her quilting.

• November 16, 2008 8:00 PM ET/PT
• November 17, 2008 12:00 AM ET/PT
• November 22, 2008 4:30 PM ET/PT
• November 23, 2008 5:00 PM ET/PT
• November 29, 2008 8:30 PM ET/PT
• November 30, 2008 12:30 AM ET/PT

Tomorrow, Sandy's getting married. Sunday, Auntie InExcelsisDeo greets her public. Monday, I'm going to hide under my desk and meow.


Brush Me, Daddio

Mr. Breszny is a clever man:
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): All of the good works you do in the coming week will send ripples far and wide, but not all of them will be recognized and appreciated. I hope that's OK with you; I hope you won't get obsessed with trying to get all the credit you deserve. The fact is, your influences will be more effective and enduring if they are at least partially anonymous. Ironically, your power will be greater if it's not fully noticed.

The universe calls my bluff. My ego is ginorrrrrrmous! My desire to Do Good is great. Can I trick me into doing piles of right things while shouting, "Nothing to see here, nothing to see, move along" at the tops of my lungs? Stay tuned for stuff I can't take credit for and don't mention!


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Inside So No One Can Hear

Hush, hush. Out there, words fly and bite and melt where they land like so many snowflakes flung at us by the winds on an icy night, but we have been here before, and we know it can end well, even if the quiet is only for a moment.

The Tomten saves the chickens from Reynard the fox and offers his own porridge to feed the hungry fox so that all ends well for the animals on this winter night.

What matters is whether we can do some simple good when we fear for ourselves and all around us seems very frightening indeed. The answer, my darlings, is yes.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Cannot Rest, We Cannot Rest

I love Quakers. They're full of interesting ideas about non-violent interaction with the world, which is much tougher than it seems, especially if you drive and would like nothing better than to knock that MADD Mother in the noggin.

Big Guy: Ta, how can non-violence be tough? Tough guys are tough! It's tough to put on tights and crack someone's coconut!
Tata: No, I'm sorry. You've mistaken tough for sexually repressed.
Big Guy: Come on! I want pointed missiles and hard targets and men in uniform.
Tata: My friend, you are gay as Christmas.

Speaking of stocking stuffers: topping my list is a gift that gives and gives, and it came to me through the Quaker ladies' grapevine. Yes, there is one. They do too drink wine, I've seen 'em, duh!
Dear Friends:

They call each other that, and they seem to mean it. I KNOW! What's wrong with them?
We may have thought we wanted a woman on a national political ticket, but the joke has really been on us, hasn't it? Are you as sick in your stomach as I am at the thought of Sarah Palin as Vice President of the United States ?

Since Palin gave her speech accepting the Republican nomination for the Vice Presidency, Barack Obama's campaign has raised over $10 million dollars. Some of you may already be supporting the Obama campaign financially; others of you may still be a little honked off over the primaries. None of you, however, can be happy with Palin's selection, especially on her positions on women's issues. So, if you feel you can't support the Obama campaign financially, may I suggest the following fiendishly brilliant alternative?

Make a donation to Planned Parenthood or NARAL- Pro Choice In Sarah Palin's name. And here's the good part: when you make a donation to PP in her name, they'll send her a card telling her that the donation has been made in her honor. Here's the link to the Planned Parenthood and NARAL websites

Planned Parenthood

You'll need to fill in the address to let PP/NARAL know where to send the 'in Sarah Palin's honor' card. I suggest you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:

McCain for President
1235 S. Clark Street
1st Floor
Arlington , VA 22202

I haven't felt this kind of fiery, wicked desire to Do Good since the first time I zipped up a red sequinned dress to emcee a benefit show, but don't think mad advocacy is solely the province of women. Sometimes a bunch of insomniac boys can jack up a double-parked bandwagon.

Tata: That thing the town did with the bags was absolute genius.
Committee Lady: What bags? The town didn't do anything with bags.
Tata: It wasn't the town?
Committee Lady: The town didn't do what?
Tata: On the South side a few months ago we all found tote bags hanging from our doorknobs. Not a word, nothing. People just picked them up and started taking them to the grocery store. If you give them a better way to do something people adapt.
Committee Lady: That wasn't the town.
Tata: Huh. You'd think the town that positively gibbers about being green would have.

Turns out these guys sat up all night in the terrifying Somerset Diner with monstrous piles of french fries and dreamed up a scheme. I'm sure they meant to or mean to play other eco-pranks on the small town but I haven't seen any. In any case, it's genius.

Friends - I know, but why not? - it's time to pull up a chair and lay out the funny. But, you know, all peaceful-like.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Man, They're All the Same

It doesn't take a genius to see that the financial news is going to get much, much worse before it gets better. In fact, despite our short attention spans and denial, we may not see our economy 'normalize' for a decade or more. In this country, the lines at food banks and soup kitchens will lengthen. Around the world it's going to get very rough, and we're all going to wonder what we could have done differently.

I already wish I played games more often.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Full Of Jelly Jars Edition

A couple of months ago on a sunny Saturday, I worked at the family gift shop while my stepdad Tom manned the till at the toy store. During a fabulous dull stretch, we basked in the sun and chatted about biodegradable diapers. Tom is a biologist and up on the news. Tom said there have been recent studies of landfills where drilling down into a pile brought up decades-old pieces of carrot, still orange and carroty and not at all biodegraded because landfill isn't composting, it's storage. I've mulled this over at great length, and happen to be sitting at the World's Largest Encyclopedia. Let's ask it if stuff biodegrades in landfills.

Atticus surveys the 99 steps down to the Great Lake Darla lives above in her new home in Canada.

Organic substances “biodegrade” when they are broken down by other living organisms (such as enzymes and microbes) into their constituent parts, and in turn recycled by nature as the building blocks for new life. The process can occur aerobically (with the aid of oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen). Substances break down much faster under aerobic conditions, as oxygen helps break the molecules apart.

Landfills Too Tightly Packed for Most Trash to Biodegrade
Most landfills are fundamentally anaerobic because they are compacted so tightly, and thus do not let much air in. As such, any biodegradation that does take place does so very slowly.

“Typically in landfills, there’s not much dirt, very little oxygen, and few if any microorganisms,” says green consumer advocate and author Debra Lynn Dadd. She cites a landfill study conducted by University of Arizona researchers that uncovered still-recognizable 25-year-old hot dogs, corncobs and grapes in landfills, as well as 50-year-old newspapers that were still readable.

Well. That is shitty news, but it's not really news, which is one reason we always had a compost pile when I lived at Mom's house. Look, I was a commune kid. The gas crisis of the seventies for me conjures images of Mom sitting in gas lines, crying. I shut off lights, turn off water, and I am acutely aware of the ugly mess o' compostibles I'm not composting, but while I live in an apartment, what can I do? Wa$ted, an eco game show from New Zealand combining cold cash and hot schadenfreude, introduced - to me, at least - the notion of worm farming. This seems like a great idea for someone.

Atticus descends the stairs to the forest. I wonder if he remembers sleeping on my head.

Some folks sort the worms out of the castings and put the worms in fresh bedding. We have other things to do with our time and prefer a split harvest method. It helps if you have trained your worms ahead of time for this harvest method. To train your worms, you start feeding them at only one end of the bin. Do this for about a week. (Worms learn pretty fast.) Now take the bedding/castings out of the end of the farm where you were not feeding them and add it to your plants or garden. You will be removing about half to two thirds of the bedding/castings in this step. You will lose some worms, but those were the ones that were not very smart. Remember you trained the others.

Flying Spaghetti Monster! Train worms? I can't join that chicken outfit! - though, apparently worm training is hilarious. Back to shopping for another composting method. This shows promise, though it uses electricity:

Darla says Atticus roams far and wide and has introduced himself to the neighbors, Step 1 in his plan to hold some municipal office.

How it works: Deposit food waste items at any time, on any day. Add up to 120 lbs (55kg) per month. For best results, cut items into small pieces. Items remain in the upper chamber, with "hot composting" conditions: mixing, air flow, heat, and moisture (see diagram). The energy released destroys odors, pathogens, and seed germination. The compost is later transferred through a trap door to the lower cure tray chamber, where it continues to compost while you add fresh waste items to the upper chamber.

Interesting...interesting. I do wonder what someone who lives in a little home on the hundredth floor does with resulting buckets of nitrogen-rich soil, though I could march outside and dump compost into the complex's flower beds. It's a step in some right direction, but shall we dance?

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday AIDS Blogging

By special request -


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Down the Road, A Factory's Choking

I could write you a lengthy exhortation to action or I could urge you forward in a few simple words, but I could not speak more urgently or eloquently than the formidable Digby, issuing this clarion call. The time has come for us to hold our presidential candidates accountable. It'd be great if we could hold our war criminals accountable, but you have to crawl before you can rendition an entire administration to the Hague.

Please read Digby:

Scott Horton has announced a new initiative that I think is hugely important as we move into the general election season. It may be the most important foreign policy agenda item of all and yet it's one that all the candidates are loath to talk about in any detail and which the press seems determined to let them elude.
In its self-declared war on terror, the Bush Administration overturned an American legacy that stretched back to General Washington’s orders at Trenton and Princeton in 1776. The administration repudiated the order that the first and greatest Republican president issued in the heat of the Civil War, in 1863, prohibiting torture and official cruelty. The consequences have been nothing less than disastrous ...

The moral issue hovering over the 2008 election is the Bush Administration’s embrace of torture as a tool of statecraft. This mistake must be thoroughly repudiated, and the nation must undertake a vow never to repeat it. And this issue should not be allowed to divide the nation as a premise of partisan rancor. There is hope in this election year to reverse one of the most fateful decisions in our nation’s history–the decision after 9/11 to disregard America’s historic values and to use torture in the “war on terror.”

All the remaining Presidential candidates–John McCain in the Republican Party, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party–have publicly stated their opposition to the use of torture. Now each of these presidential candidates must get their parties to adopt at their Conventions a party platform plank that returns America to its historic position of absolutely rejecting torture–anywhere, on anyone, for any reason.

The initiative is called No Torture, No Exceptions. As Digby explains, No Torture, No Exceptions means:
Reaffirming America’s commitment to existing federal laws and international treaties that ban torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under all circumstances.

Renouncing all legal interpretations and executive orders that redefine torture and permit such acts as sensory or sleep deprivation, stress positions, sexual humiliation, mock executions.

Enforcing full transparency of information about how America treats any and all detainees held by our personnel and those in our employ anywhere in the world.

Rejecting and abolishing the practice of rendering detainees abroad.

Establishing a single standard of interrogation procedures to apply to all persons held in U.S. custody or by those under U.S. control, whether C.I.A., military, or civilian.

Treating our detainees as we would have others treat detained Americans.

It's truly the least we can do.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Love Is In the Air Edition

Surely a sign of the End Times. Princess Drusy leeeks Mrs. Topaz and Mrs. Topaz permits this leeeking. Check for buggy Horsemen!

For the first time in more than a week, the Blogging Gods have permitted the uploading of a new image from my camera at my house. I can't explain that. "Computers are trying to kill us," says Siobhan. While I can't put forth a cogent argument, I suspect computers may be peevishly trying to at least inconvenience. It's raining outside. Since our satellites are spying on us, couldn't they email and tell me where I left my damn umbrella?

Even so, no rain over New Jersey dampens my mood. Love is in the air!

I have no words for the joy this brings me, so I've spent the day squealing gleefully. In comments, Jill asked a question I can't answer, though my curiosity is piqued.
After having to deal with mousies in my basement celotex ceiling (and having no assurance that some aren't still there, I'm concerned about anything that's going to attract vermin...that's the one reason I haven't bought a composter. I think about it, though, every time I cut the stems out of the swiss chard. Of course I could just toss it in the bushes in the backyard for the bunnies, but would they find them? And will they care about the sand?

Since we've already determined my friends know all, what do you think, happy friends? Bunnies?

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

As Long As I Stay I'll Be Waiting

Yesterday, a post on dKos, which I don't generally read because I have two jobs, a handsome dude and sometimes require sleep, reminded us that though the blogosphere raised enough money for the trust to buy a house for the Pretty Bird Woman House shelter, other needs are coming to light. For example, many generous people have sent new and gently used sheets and towels, but that doesn't mean you can't. The shelter has set up a Target Wish List, which is completely awesome. I didn't realize the shelter would need alarm clocks, but of course, the shelter needs them, duh! I have one still in the box in my hall closet, and next time I send out a box of donated items, I'll drop in the alarm clock.

Needs will continue to make themselves known. This week, they discovered they had three blankets. A few days ago, it was -17 degrees in McLaughlin, South Dakota. Three twin or full size blankets doesn't cut it any way one looks at that situation. You don't have to go crazy, though. At your house, you probably have sheets, towels and blankets you don't use. Put 'em in a box and send them to:

Pretty Bird Woman House
302 Sale Barn Rd.
McLaughlin SD 57642

This week, I sent out three boxes full of Daria's bras and children's clothing, so I can tell you with certainty that UPS or FedEx will be cheaper than the Postal Service. As long as you're mailing stuff, keep in mind that when women leave a hospital after an assault exam they often leave their clothes behind as evidence. Sweats, bras and underwear don't seem all that important until you face leaving a hospital in nothing but a blanket, which has happened.

Finally, the shelter will need office supplies. Staples and Office Depot will ship gift cards for free. Come to think of it, so will most retailers. If you think of a need the shelter will encounter, I hope you will mention it in comments on this or the shelter's blog.

The other day, I was looking through the closet containing the life's work of the person we refer to as Me. It all stacks very neatly on a top shelf where I don't have to look at it. Thing is I didn't plan to stop being Me, so I have all kinds of office supplies. I debated sending them to the shelter but it would be prohibitively expensive. I've decided to call Elijah's Promise on Monday, and if they don't need folders and reams of paper, I'm sure Planned Parenthood does. These things are a weight on me now but they might lighten the load for someone else.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Nothing You And I Won't Do

It's New Year's Day. I've been thinking a lot about how I do stuff, however small, for the common good and urge you to do stuff for the common good. It's possible to assume all kinds of things are wrong or would be productive and make stupid, humiliating mistakes with the best of intentions. Kali knows years ago I threw benefit events where none were wanted or especially needed because I felt the want and need to do something. In my old age and sloth, I slow down and listen to people who actually know what they're doing. Case in point: the blogosphere has put a great deal of effort into successful fundraising for Pretty Bird Woman House. I didn't have a spare nickel to my name, so I sat that one out. I didn't think I could help. A few days ago, Melissa pointed out a detail that had escaped my notice: the house needs stuff. I slapped my forehead. Of course it does.
Material Donations Also Needed

In addition to monetary donations for the house fund, PBWH is in need of the following items for women seeking emergency shelter: towels and washcloths, twin and full size sheets, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, women's hygiene items, diapers of all sizes, baby wipes, first aid kit items, and analgesics such as ibuprophen and aspirin.

Since winter is approaching, there is a need for new or gently used winter clothing for women and children as well.

UPS, FedEx and DHL will not ship to P. O. boxes. If you use one of those services, use the building address:

Pretty Bird Woman House
302 Sale Barn Rd.
McLaughlin SD 57642

If you are using the USPS, send your package to the address at the top of the page.

It also turns out that the shelter specifically needs NEW sweat suits, underwear and bras for women who have been sexually assaulted, since they often must leave their clothes behind at the hospital as part of the evidence gathering process. Recently a hospital released a woman in only her hospital gown and blanket. Wow, that one has to change doesn't it!

PBWH would also like to offer victims of sexual violence information on coping with sexual assault, but does not have the budget for this. An inexpensive yet good booklet is available for $2.50 ea. at If you would like to contribute by buying some of these pamplets, that would be greatly appreciated as well (there is a minimum order of 50).

Thank you!

At the beginning of a new year, one thing we all have is extra stuff. I'm not materialistic and I despise shopping, but I opened my lingerie drawer and found five bras with tags still on. I have extra coats I've been lugging around. I have sheets and towels that I don't love above and beyond what I truly need. These things weigh on me. Their presence does not enrich my life. Yesterday, I called my sisters and asked them to go through their closets and their children's closets for things gently or never worn but no longer needed. We each have separate social structures that involve the re-circulation of clothing and household items. In this case, I asked them to give me what they don't need and I'd send it to South Dakota.

Tomorrow, I'll send two big boxes out. I will never miss these things, no matter how I acquired or once loved them. I feel lighter already, especially knowing that what space I clear out the universe will fill with what I actually need. I'm hoping for artichoke dip.

People in need come in all shapes and sizes. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the problems we face, and that we absolutely must face them, but that sense is out of proportion. I can't solve the world's problems. What I can do is be a connection between something stuck and in excess and the place where that stuff is needed. You can do it, too. Take five things out of your closet and send them to Pretty Woman Bird House, if you are a woman. Then ask your friends to do the same. Money is tight everywhere, but all it will cost to help is postage, and probably less than $20.

It would be easy to say, "What about the homeless or abused where I live? Don't they deserve help? Shouldn't I help them first?" It's not a competition. No. No, it's not. Recently, I asked you to consider helping the good people at Vandenberg Air Force Base and I discussed my little project with a few of my co-workers, who at first did not seem receptive. They didn't share their concerns with me, so I have no idea what they were. Just before Christmas, one came to me and told me what happened. I almost burst into tears. See: this woman discussed my little project with her granddaughter who works at Conair. Her department pitches in and their boss matches the group contribution. This year, they chose to use the money to buy stuff for deployed soldiers from Fort Dix in a project parallel to mine. So at first I worried that a particular set of soldiers might lose out because I hadn't articulated their need properly - then I realized a large group of people had just recognized one way they could contribute to the common good that had never occurred to them before.

So. Tell me how you'd like to start this brilliant new year.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Your Haunted Social Scene

From Wintle, our field reporter in the Land of Do-Goodery:
Yesterday was the last day that Amazon could guarantee delivery by Christmas. Therefore today is the first day the procrastinators shop!

Don't want to give clutter to someone who has an uncluttered life? Don't know how to gift to someone who so impresses you that you somehow suspect they wouldn't appreciate a singing fish for their den? Want to kiss your bosses ass, but don't know the slightest thing about what they like? Looking to get with the cute new receptionist with the Suicide Girls tattoo?

Christmas (and their ilk) conjures up dread in the souls of many. There is a cultural imperative to stoke the coals of capitalism by giving things to family, lovers and other people who wield power over our dreams and aspirations. Tribute must be given. A "thoughtful gift" is required. You tried the Barnes & Noble gift cards last year and it didn't go over all that well, really, did it? Something new. Something different. Something that will get you laid.

The web site Changing the Present allows you to pick from a myriad charities (some really fun and unusual ones), nicely organized by category. You donate to the charity through the site. They send 100% the money to the charity (you pay the credit-card fee), plus they can send you (or the recipient) a nice physical card announcing the gift (Since yesterday was the XMas deadline for that, you might want to go with the eCard option). You get a statement for tax purposes. They even have an application for facebook addicts. Pretty cool, huh?

If you want more details you can read them here.

He's always miles ahead. Thanks, Wintle.


Monday, December 10, 2007

We Sweep With Threshing Oar

Last week was a little tough for me and this week threatens to be a little tougher. I'm following the writers' strike with rapt attention; half the time, I literally shake my head in disbelief.
For instance, Peter Chernin is privately telling Hollywood that the producers plan to quit the talks any day now. That they have no intention of coming back with another streaming proposal "until we are close". And that they'll only give a better electronic sell-through formula "at the last minute" when a contract with the writers is virtually signed.

These quiet remarks by the Fox/News Corp No. 2 are the complete opposite of what the AMPTP is telling the WGA around the bargaining table.

This is lying and stealing, plain and simple, which you expect from a corporate executive in Chernin's position. I have no sympathy for him or his shareholders. I have much sympathy for union members trying to make a decent living for themselves and their families, knowing that if their lines break, another union, then another after that will break, too. I hope we all see by now that we have to support each other and refuse to cross picket lines where we find them or what's left of the middle class in America goes straight into the old circular file.

Even so, there's good news. Minstrel Boy's got a new niece to spoil rotten, which prospect made me joyous all weekend. One of my favorite magazines has - improbably - gone online. And when you're sending out packages hither and yon, please give a thought to our care package project:
Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Got any good news you want to share with the class?

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Satellite Faster Than the Speed Of Light

During November and December, I fall into a glamorous torpor we can attribute to the cold and the dark. Last winter was a little different, as the weather was unusually warm and I was out in it, walking everywhere. This winter, I feel as if I'm drifting from job to job and task to task with little ambition and less focus. Frankly, the only reason I didn't call out this morning is that next week, when it's colder and darker, I might feel worse. Then again, at least I'm accounted for.
A British man who reappeared five years after he was thought to have drowned in a canoeing accident has been arrested on suspicion of fraud, police confirmed Wednesday.

Police, who are trying to piece together the movements of John Darwin over the last five years, have made a public appeal for information over his whereabouts.

Darwin, a prison officer and former teacher, was declared dead by a coroner in 2003, 13 months after he went missing.

But on Saturday Darwin walked in to a police station in central London and told officers: "I think I am a missing person", a spokeswoman for Cleveland Police, the local force investigating the case, told CNN.

Few things are more suspicious than CNN's punctuation but one of them is a guy who's not sure he's missing!
According to widespread media reports, Darwin told police that he did not remember where he had been for the last five years.

He was later reunited with his two sons, Mark, 31, and Anthony, 29, who released a joint statement saying the reappearance of their father was "a huge shock."

The statement said their mother, Darwin's wife Anna, who is believed to have moved to Panama last month after selling the couple's home in Seaton Carew, had also been informed of the news and "was delighted to hear it."

That's Wifespeak for "I am SO going to kick his ass for what he did to our kids." Oh, and Darwin's dad's going for the belt!
Darwin's 90-year-old father Ron said the last time he saw his son was just a few days before he went missing, he told his local newspaper, the Hartlepool Mail.

"The people were in to put in a television and he was round for a chat, but the house was full. He said 'tell you what dad, see you later,' and I said 'cheerio' and that was the last time I saw him," the newspaper reported the father as saying.

His father said he was looking forward to seeing his son and giving him "a nice hug and kiss."

I have said that depression and medication wiped clean my memory and dropped at least four years of my life down the rabbit hole, and let me tell you: that story is often greeted with blank looks. This guy is in trou-ble! But back on Planet Claire, where you and I can check our wallets and know where our mail's being delivered, a friend of Poor Impulse Control recommended and volunteered to try it out. You remember Kiva:
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

Our test philanthropist reported over a month ago that his loan had already been repaid. He was startled by the rapid repayment and pleased with the whole experience. I'm sorry I neglected to account for results. You understand. I'm daydreaming of hibernation and dancing pic-a-nic baskets.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm Odds And Ends

From the nerdacious circles in which Mr. Wintle travels comes this wild vision of a better future: One Laptop Per Child. The mission:
OLPC’s mission [ed's note: See? They have one!] is to provide a means for learning, self-expression, and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education. While children are by nature eager for knowledge, many countries have insufficient resources to devote to education—sometimes less than $20 per year per child (compared to an average of $7,500 in the United States). By giving children their very own connected XO laptop, we are giving them a window to the outside world, access to vast amounts of information, a way to connect with each other, and a springboard into their future. And we’re also helping these countries develop an essential resource - educated, empowered children.

Wait, I have questions - !
From now through December 31, 2007, OLPC is offering a Give One Get One program in the United States and Canada. This is the first time the revolutionary XO laptop has been made available to the general public. For a donation of $399, one XO laptop will be sent to empower a child in a developing nation and one will be sent to the child in your life in recognition of your contribution. $200 of your donation is tax-deductible (your $399 donation minus the fair market value of the XO laptop you will be receiving).

For all U.S. donors who participate in the Give One Get One program, T-Mobile is offering one year of complimentary HotSpot access. Find out more.

Please be aware that we will make every effort to deliver the XO laptops by the holidays, but quantities are limited. Early purchasers have the best chance of receiving their XO laptops in time for the holidays, but we cannot guarantee timing.

I'm pretty bad at math. That's why the unnamed university lets me play with money. I have to say the above description didn't make as much sense as I'd hoped. Maybe Siobhan will type verrrrrry slowly and explain it to me. But about you:
Bring the light of learning to a child who would otherwise be left without adequate access to information and education with a donation of one or more XO laptops. A donation of $200 will pay for and deliver one XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, $400 will pay for and deliver two XO laptops, and so on. Your entire contribution will be tax-deductible.

That I understand. Give it a look, won't you?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Going To the Discotheque A Go Go

Previously on Poor Impulse Control, someone asked for help:
The following items are of great use to the deployers:

Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

My contact with the program, who shall remain charmingly anonymous and not a person I made myself, says also:
We also have a program for our families called Operation Sweet Dreams. In this program the family member sends us a digital photo, we transfer to a pillowcase and the family gives to the deployed member to take with them or is sent to the deployed location. With that we would need plain white pillow cases.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Right after that, minstrel and I gabbed about the truffle shop he's going to open, the sun came out and birds sang. You were overwhelmed with holiday spirit and mailed off a case of sunflower seeds and Crystal Light. I ordered this for my alleged future grandson. What? Thought I wouldn't? Gabba gabba hey, dude. But that's all clouds in our coffee when we've got storms in the sugar.

Recently, a chain letter circulated asking folks to send cards to "A Recovering American Soldier" at Walter Reed "Home of Warrior Care" Medical Center. That may have been an excellent plan last year but this year: not so much. The Department of Defense apparently does not accept cards addressed to nobody in particular. Here's their request for other kinds of help.

Thus, I don't know what to say about Let's Say Thanks, a project by Xerox. You pick a design drawn and colored by a child, write a message and Xerox sends it off to a serviceman or servicewoman. Perhaps Xerox has a list, we don't know. No one answered when I wrote to this project's contact email.

This past week, no one skittering past my cubicle has not complained about how fast Thanksgiving approaches. We are lucky in the sense that each of us has plenty to eat and in-laws to curse, but not everyone is. This year, food banks have struggled. If you can, please help a food bank, an outreach program or a soup kitchen. It's never too late to set up a paper bag in your kitchen and drop a can into it each time you grocery shop. Your generosity matters. If your budget's squeezy, you can still lend a hand.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Someone Looking After You

Courtesy of Mr. Wintle, we find a fantastic new game combining words, hunger-fighting do-goodery and work-related time-wasting. It's like the Superbowl of I'm Bored vs. This World Could Suck Less - and you're painted up green!

Here's the description - For every word you get right we donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations to help end world hunger - and you want that! You can read all about how it works and learn about poverty and add your name to the One Campaign. It's chic to care, and you're so stylish I could just peeench you!

You pick the definitions. The advertisers fund the rice. Your boss wonders why your reports are speckled with five-dollar words. Let's play.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Don't Forget: You Can Get Off the Conveyor

Last night, Pete and I went to Costco because if one of something is good, I want eight, and Costco has that! It's great for our care package project. You can participate almost without effort. See?
The following items are of great use to the deployers:

Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

My contact with the program, who shall remain charmingly anonymous and not a person I made myself, says also:
We also have a program for our families called Operation Sweet Dreams. In this program the family member sends us a digital photo, we transfer to a pillowcase and the family gives to the deployed member to take with them or is sent to the deployed location. With that we would need plain white pillow cases.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Whenever I mention this project, minstrel and I have a charming conversation in comments about his plans to open a truffle shop, and while I'm desperate to hear more about these truffles I'm not yet eating, I can't help but notice you Poor Impulsives make the crickets! crickets! sound about air-mailing to airmen. My feelings are not hurt! I read the stats, and I can see between 450-700 of you drop by every day for profiteroles at tea time. Maybe you're just not the fussy "Me, too!" type: good for you! Without a word, you mailed off a six-pack of granola bars. I love you so madly I'd like to test my no-transfer lipstick: MWAH!

So there we were, tooling about the flavored water and juice aisle and Pete seemed restive and distracted.

Tata: So when you're happy - hooray!
Or sad - Aw!
Or frightened - Eek!
Or mad - Rats!
Or excited - Wow!
Or glad - Hey!
An interjection starts the sentence right!

Pete: What - what are you singing?
Tata: Generally set apart from a sentence
By an exclamation point!
Or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong!

Pete: You serenade me with punctuation?
Tata: I serenade you with Schoolhouse Rock. It's the only reason I can multiply.

I pirouetted between the meatcase and the fresh seafood display. Nobody batted an eye.

Tata: See? Three six nine, twelve fifteen eighteen, twenty-one twenty-four twenty-seven, thirty!

Pete giggled as only very secure men and teenage girls can.

Pete: Let's go look at cookies.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Changes Aren't Permanent But Change Is

Last night at 10, my phone rang, a highly unusual occurrence on a night where House hasn't just ended. My underwear said Wednesday, so I was both happy and confused. Tuesday Weld must never share a closet with Wednesday Addams or my cousin Monday, and for crying out loud, my name is Domenica. Who the hell is calling?

Daria and Mom have put the kids to bed and hunkered down with dessert.

Daria: I just wanna tell you I've introduced Mom to your friends Ben & Jerry.

I turn to Pete and hiss, "They're hitting the dairy products pretty hard. This could take awhile."

Tata: Whadja do?
Daria: Your friends Ben & Jerry make an excellent creme brulee ice cream, which we are mmmmmppphh mmmmmmuph slurrrrrrp eating right now.
Tata: What about my friends pinot & grigio? Cozying up to them, too?
Daria: Absolutely. I made Mom sleep over because it's still gin & tonic season. Thhhhhhhhhhp! Ahh! Refreshing!

In my mind's mouth, the combination of tonic and caramelized sugar makes me purse my mental lips, but who am I to judge? I spent the next 20 minutes listening to Daria coax her husband Tyler to have some ice cream with the soothing chant, "...healthy teeth and bones, sweetheart, healthy teeth and bones..." This morning, I went looking for an image of the aforementioned treat and came across a San Diego bulletin board discussion of the product that was so filled with Limbaugh-tinged invective that I felt impelled to mention this important idea: there really are times to just zip it with the pointless and inflammatory rhetoric. I think less of a person who feels that a discussion of new and interesting ice cream products is a fine place to drop an unsolicited and fact-free assessment of MidEast peace prospects, and caramel. Well, maybe not the caramel. But if you're not going to sample the aforementioned dairy treat because it's made by people who treat each other decently, well, that's your decision but do us all a favor and find something to talk about that doesn't confirm to the bbs-reading public that you are a selfish, ignorant, ill-informed bastard who has never formed an independent opinion and doesn't give a shit about another human being except Rush. I was interested in the fucking caramel crunch swirl!

But enough about me, what are you doing about holiday cards?

It's that time of year when people you like and people you can't remember will send you greeting cards revealing every intimate detail of pottytraining and festive mortgage refi. Let's save ourselves the stress of trying to figure out how they got our addresses, shall we? If you're the card-sending type, UNICEF can help with eye-catching cards, easy-to-mail gifts and that warm feeling that comes from knowing distant cousins won't catch you off-guard again this year! Many items are handmade by collectives that do real good in parts of the world where it would be easy to think little good can be done. Have a look at the catalog and fear no flaunty PTA mom!

Myself, I haven't bought ice cream in years. After this morning, I believe I might.

Update Yes! I know! That's why it's funny.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Beach Is Backward Isn't It?

The Libraries of Middlesex County, NJ collect new books for children for the December holiday season. This program, Books to Keep, has distributed over 120,000 books since it began in 1990. Over 40 social services participate in this program including soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The libraries also collect money to support this program. For example, a check for $25 buys eight paperbacks for a child. Please make your donation prior to December 15th.

Patty Simmonds at Piscataway Public Library who helps to coordinate this program. Please call 732-463-1633.
Leah Wagner, at Monroe Township Library, is the Chair of the Books to Keep program for the Libraries of Middlesex County. The Library may be reached by telephone at (856) 629-1212.

Also, because you're a good egg and care about the welfare of others, please click here and click again where the site tells ya. You're doing a good thing, Tex.

The Books To Keep program is in my own county, but yours may have a similar program. Please give your public library a call. They may need your help.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Me Somebody To Love Find

This gorgeous image came courtesy of Mr. Wintle, with whom I share a fond interest in astronomy and miscroscopy - things great and small. This is a microscopic view of frost on a blade of grass. It thrills me. When I look at this picture, I make noises only dogs can hear.

Also via Wintle: Kiva, where you become a banker and a cheerleader. From the About page:
We let you loan to the working poor

Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

They're generous with quotation marks, but let's move on, shall we? Kiva's got diagrams:
We show you where your money goes

Kiva provides a data-rich, transparent lending platform for the poor. We are constantly working to make the system more transparent to show how money flows throughout the entire cycle. The below diagram shows briefly how money gets from you to a third-world borrower, and back!

It's a really interesting concept. Currently, you can only invest $25 because, the site will tell you, publicity brought Kiva more investors than Kiva expected, though it doesn't look that way when you survey the individual loan cases.

I like this idea very much. It builds on the practices of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for Economics winner Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank. If you are not familiar with the Grameen Bank, I would urge you to read up. It's a genuine reason to believe one person can make a big difference in the world, and, you know, you're one person.


Monday, July 02, 2007

When I Squeeze You You Make Noise

Slashdot: The Daily Mail reports that thousands of rubber ducks who have traveled the seas of the world since 1992 are about to end their journey.

After escaping out of a container fallen off a Chinese freight ship in a storm, scientists have been followed them on their fifteen year trek. This has turned out to be an invaluable source of information for studying ocean currents. Now it seems inevitable though that they will finally land on the shores of South-West England. '[Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer] correctly predicted what many thought was impossible - that thousands of them would end up washed into the Arctic ice near Alaska, and then move at a mile a day, frozen in the pack ice, around their very own North-West Passage to the Atlantic. It proved true years later and in 2003, the first Friendly Floatees were found, frozen and then thawed out, on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada. So precious to science are they that the US firm that made them is offering a £50 bounty for finding one.

Apologies: I misplaced the URL for this blurb, but let's look at The Daily Mail.

10 JANUARY 1992: Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean nearly 29,000 First Years bath toys, including bright yellow rubber ducks, are spilled from a cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean.

16 NOVEMBER 1992: Caught in the Subpolar Gyre (counter-clockwise ocean current in the Bering Sea, between Alaska and Siberia), the ducks take 10 months to begin landing on the shores of Alaska.

EARLY 1995: The ducks take three years to circle around. East from the drop site to Alaska, then west and south to Japan before turning back north and east passing the original drop site and again landing in North America. Some ducks are even found In Hawaii. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked out that the ducks travel approximately 50 per pent faster than the water in the current.

1995 - 2000: Some intrepid ducks escape the Subpolar Gyre and head North, through the Bering Straight and into the frozen waters of the Arctic. Frozen into the ice the ducks travel slowly across the pole, moving ever eastward.

2000: Ducks begin reaching the North Atlantic where they begin to thaw and move Southward. Soon ducks are sighted bobbing in the waves from Maine to Massachusetts.

2001: Ducks are tracked in the area where the Titanic sank.

My heart will go on!
JULY TO DECEMBER 2003: The First Years company offers a $100 savings bond reward for the recovery of wayward ducks from the 1992 spill. To be valid ducks must be sent to the company and must be found in New England, Canada or Iceland. Britain is told to prepare for an invasion of the wayward ducks as well.

Duck validation!
2003: A lawyer called Sonali Naik was on holiday in the Hebrides in north-west Scotland when she found a faded green frog on the beach marked with the magic words 'The First Years'. Unaware of the significance of her find she left it on the beach. It was only when she was chatting to other guests at her hotel that she realised what she had seen.

What a moron!

Science is just adorable.


Monday, February 19, 2007

You Fail, We All Fail

This morning, my co-worker handed me a baggy of Box Tops For Education. I wish I could say the baggy was filled with something far more exciting in a socially recognized sense, like Peruvian marching powder. You'd say, "What an invigorating life Miss Tata leads, and just look at all that danger! The possibility of imminent arrest! The eventual need for reconstructive rhinoplasty! That tears it! I'm going to run right out and develop a drug habit so I can be just like her!"

Well, of course, you're dying to be just like me, and who can blame you? Today is one of those days you're going to have a new and delightful idea. Yes, you will! And here it is: despite our early conditioning that leads us to think otherwise, teachers are not actually locked in closets at night, only to emerge each morning, a little L'Eau du Mothball dabbed behind each ear, to bore us senseless. No! They're our friends and neighbors. Teachers live among us, just like normal people. There's just no shame in it anymore. And these teachers struggle with taxes and budgets and equipment-this and expectation-that more than you might realize - especially the really good ones - to educate children each and every day.

You can help, even if you can't bring yourself to go to one of those stultifying school board meetings where they're planning a universe-changing vote on chalk. If you live in a wealthy school district, you can even help level the playing field for poor districts. It is breathakingly simple: put an envelope in the corner of your kitchen and when you see this logo on something you bought in the grocery store, cut it out. Drop that little piece of paper or plastic into the envelope. As the envelope fills, you now have an exciting opportunity to be - yes! you've been so patient! - just like me.

The Box Tops For Education site offers you credit cards, if you want to go that far but I can't see how creating personal debt for public finance makes sense. You can create an account, they offer coupons. If you use a whole lot of these products: good for you! If not, you may fill up that kitchen envelope once in a great long while - which is fine. Kids will still need school supplies when you've finally finished that bag of flour in two years.

I don't have school-age children. Miss Sasha is 23, married and living on an Air Force base in the Deep South. There's nothing personally in it for me to save and send off these things in a capricious manner to a random school in a struggling school district or hand them off to friends who teach. There's hardly a stigma anymore to meeting them in public! Since I'm always in a mood to have a delightful secret, I mail them off anonymously and smile for a week.

So I'm staring at this baggy and thinking: do I send this to one struggling school? Divide it in half and mail it to two? Where can it do some good? I'm breathless, just thinking about it.