M81: Movement Hero César Chávez

March 31 is celebrated in a handful of states because it is César Chávez Day. He would have been 81 today. César Chávez Day is an observed holiday in eight states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

This morning I watched Democracy Now on the computer and learned (re-learned?) about this profoundly beloved leader of Mexican farm workers from his companion and co-founder Dolores Huerta. Now as I write that last sentence I wonder how many of this nation's farm laborers are NOT Mexican.

Having spent yesterday afternoon digging in the soil, I heard about the farm labor movement with a heightened sense of awareness.

It is also the 40th anniversary today of the end of the grape boycott. I remember the boycott in 1968 as I found out about it after knowing I'd eaten grapes without any awareness. I stopped after heard about the UFW strike and César Chávez going on a 25 day fast of water only.
The United Farmworkers Union AFL-CIO (UFW) has a special place in the history of farm labor organizing. It is the only successful union ever established to defend the rights of those who grow and harvest the crops.

This PBS website answers my own question as I found that historically it was the Filipino farm workers who stared the grape boycott.

Everything changed on September 8, 1965. On that day another farmworker group, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), struck the Delano table grape growers. Most of AWOC’s members were Filipinos who had come to the U.S. during the 1930s.

One week later the NFWA voted to join the strike. Among the joint leadership were César Chávez, Dolores Huerta and Gilbert Padilla from NFWA, and Larry Itliong, Andy Imutan and Philip Veracruz from AWOC.

Today, in 2008 I am very frightened for the farm laborers. As unions are growing weaker and weaker in this corporatist country and as racial hatred gets stronger and stronger the situation is a tinderbox. César Chávez'said, “The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.”

Using more of César Chávez' own words:

"¡Sí se puede!"

"If you're not frightened that you might fail, you'll never do the job. If you're frightened, you'll work like crazy."

Painting by Robert Shetterly

M80: Manual Labor

Yesterday our community garden had its first work detail. Several young residents and a guy my age went to pick up the load of topsoil and horse manure (dried) from an ad I’d found on Craig’s List. They also went to a second spot and picked up aerated soil for a total of about 4-1/2 to 5 yards. Once back here a half dozen of us sifted through the pile and took wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow to two separate plots. One neighbor, a nurse during her day job, worked for several hours spreading the soil and then began at one end of the larger garden and turned the soil one spade full at a time.

Now that doesn’t sound like a big deal. But here is the thing. The bunch of us women around the dirt pile with our shovels had mostly sat around this last year and gotten weak. At least one guy suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and another had been at it for some hours. This crew around the great mountain of soil aged from late 50’s through 70’s. The prime energy mover is a young woman (manager) in her 20’s and the tree / plant professional neighbor is late 20’s or early 30’s. This poor guy injured his shoulder a couple of weeks ago and is miserable about not being able to do anything. He did what he could by driving the big truck, directing people and doing some pruning. Nothing underscores the importance of teamwork than our motley crew. Alone we would not be able to get much of anything done. Hell, I wouldn’t even try. Another fascinating aspect of this motley crew was the ease with which labor saving ideas were adopted (like my neighbor Jim's idea to use milk crates to sift) and suggestions for dividing the work or where to move the earth. It was consensus, cooperation experiment that did us proud.

We had pizza from the petty cash and lots of laughs. It was a good opportunity to talk about politics, music, jokes and the 50’s. I kidded that shoveling dirt and shit was the perfect time to talk politics. I was surprised there were so many Obama backers. I know there are some die-hard republicans in the park, so I usually don’t ask. But, a shared task does this. It loosens the tongue, it loosens the spirit. We had a lot of funny interactions and story telling. I found that I wasn’t alone as a Cornell graduate or someone who lived in Iowa or Nebraska.

The other benefit was a heightened sense of excitement for the next stage, and the next. Several people felt the need to talk about what a good feeling it was to join together in this task. All of us were astounded to see the pile of dirt go down. We actually finished it all but the pile of dirt clods, grass and sticks we’d sifted out. This last pile was spread out so that the dirt could be dried completely. We will then pulverize it as much as we can to make it spread-able.

This weekend there were at least 4 neighbors with the flu, one visiting a father, another burying a father and my own son had a shoulder out and work. I’d like to think that this groups and a half dozen more might be able to jump in with some bit over the upcoming weeks.

There is a great deal more manual labor required to do in simply preparing the soil for planting. But, yesterday made me relax that we will be able to gather people and to accomplish much this spring and summer. And it looks like we might be able to do it with good feelings. I also reminded the gang that we were getting something for free (besides the topsoil and manure). It was funny how there were puzzled looks and a neighbor woman said, "Good feelings working together?" (or something like that) and I said, "Food, my first goal here is that we will feed ourselves." This point is just not sinking in yet. It is part of the staggering number of Myths America that we will always have enough to eat. That was one grounding thought (excuse the pun) for the day.

Flickr ant's view of dirt pile
wheelbarrow rainbow

This photo is so pleasing to me. I like the kind of mind that would come up with such an unconventional use of a wheelbarrow. It is so happy.

L79: Laughing at Shit

Besides laughter as weapon there is a secondary aspect of humor and laughter that feels to me like a cultural tool of manipulation. It is related. What about comedy, laughter-light entertainment as the only means of communicating? My son and I have recently bumped heads over Will Ferrel. He said I don’t like WF because I recently saw a ‘green’ video that was loathsome. In it rape and murder were a joke. I won’t look for it or link to it. This kind of humor makes misogyny, hate, greed and stupidity “no big deal.” I just don’t see what is gained? Presumably, the idea was that environmentalists are seen as weak (considerate) so this green team is going to show how tough (inconsiderate) they are.

Yet, this doesn’t even get to my point here. I am finding myself surrounded by this dumbed-down sensibility as the norm, even with my own family. Nuance is gone in American humor. So-called satire is now done with a sledge hammer. There seems to be a real disconnect simply being gross or rude are glibly labeled satire. Satire isn’t stupid or mean by definition. Our literary tradition has sharp wit as the language of satire. Not so now.

Back to Will Ferrel, my son’s favorite comic. I told my son the other day I thought WF was obnoxious as he only plays the same character over and over. Granted he is cast in these roles, but he accepts them. I admit I really laughed at Elf, and even chuckled at The Anchorman. What kind of drug is in everyone’s water that this is accepted as entertainment movie after movie after movie? I just suspended my cable (satellite) television after ten years – I don’t want to try to quantify the hundreds of thousands of hours I watched crap when I was in ‘watching mode’ and something better wasn’t available. I literally observed my expectations drop lower and lower over time. Hundreds and hundreds of stations of shit that I paid $50 a month to click past. Ultimately that is what helped me make the call, the new bill showed a $4 rate increase and I know for a fact I am getting less. Done.

Having said all that, humor is a precious link for my son and I. Whenever he visited New York (he lived in the Midwest with his father) we often spent time in the video store trying to find a movie we all could enjoy. Humor was one of the only themes that came close to bridging our tastes. I consciously learned to lighten up and let the goofy movies help us all bond. Hey, I remember fondly Big, Ghost Busters plus Planes, Trains and Automobiles with a real sincerity despite my initial boredom with the comedy format. He joined me in NYC at age 14. With this adolescent boy in my home full time, I learned to go along to get along with a lot more scatological, stupid comedy than I ever would have chosen without him there.

But now, eighteen years have passed. I was bummed out at this last Thanksgiving to sit down to a cable pay-for movie, Idiocracy. It was absolutely painful. I didn’t even pretend to enjoy it. I couldn’t. It was beyond the pale. Again, satire writ large in shit-smeared letters was the word of the day. It is now becoming painful to me to watch insipid nonsense, especially when I know the people of this nation must wake up in order to get ourselves out of war, into sustainable economies and back to our humanity. And, just to be clear. I think my son is funny and I enjoy our shared humor. I just feel embarrassed for him and his coworkers at the restaurant and the country at large who all seem to share the same low expectations. In my mind it simply isn’t enough to act stupid and fart to make a movie. There are far too many hilarious things in our lives. I want more humor, more laughter that stretches our imaginations and our expressions.

This trance-like addiction to dumb is insulting to the viewing public in both movies and television. Sadly, the monkeys flinging shit seem already to be in charge.

Banksy image

L78: Laughter in Science

Click to embiggen.

If you haven't checked out this website, xkcd, it is time. "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language".

L77: Lights Out! Earth Hour US 2008

These events are becoming more common internationally, but the US is getting on board. Turn off your lights from 8-9 pm.

Earth Hour 2008 website signup

L76: Laughter as Weapon

First let me say that I believe in using humor as a weapon over guns, bombs, tazers and tanks. The Daily Show is a formidable force against the lies and corruption of the people and institutions in powers. Laughter is a great assault on hubris. Jon Stewart’s self-deprecating style is refreshing against the ignorant arrogance Bush and Cheney. I recently embedded really funny videos of British funny guys Fortune and Bird. But I am emphatically against targeting people simply because they are different. Feminists, Environmentalists, Disabled, Blacks, LGBTQ or otherwise labeled by the privileged power brokers have all been fair game in politics, advertising and entertainment.

My previous post was about the seemingly spontaneous groundswell of defiance against Jay Leno’s continued homophobic, lame comedy on the Tonight Show. The full response is still growing. BTW, I learned in this event that the Q of LGBTQ would make it “Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transsexual & Queer” (or Questioning). One commenter today was critical of all the posters saying there were more important issues than being so hyper-sensitive to this comedy. Melissa McEwan gave her usual erudite response. A portion follows:

Jeff and I have already gotten so many emails expressing gratitude for providing a space in which LGBTQs and their allies can express frustration or contempt or anger at something of which, we have all been told in explicit or implicit ways, our jovial and uncomplaining acquiesce is expected.

In the larger world, people are silenced by the fear of reprisal, by the fear of being told they are humorless, hypersensitive, over-reactionary, boring. It's a terribly effective silencing strategy, which is why the conveyance of heteronormativity is so often closely associated with humor. Anyone who dares complain is just No Fun -- hence, we find ourselves mired in a culture in which LGBTQ and allied people who don't laugh at gay jokes and treat them as No Big Deal are the ones considered weird.

It can be really daunting to go up against all that, especially in one's everyday life, on one's own, just one person against someone(s) equipped with such an effective institutionalized mechanism for shaming and silencing.

I am fully aware of my own behavior. I have used humor to silence, to put down and to fight back. In retrospect I was taught this passive, aggressive style since I was a little girl. This week is an 'Earth' week, so I'm thinking of my roots. My father was always considered a funny, funny man. This family photo below really struck me. My father brought howls of laughter more than fifty years ago by imitating a drunk. What irony that he died in his early fifties largely because of alcohol.

Oh yes, he was constantly imitating limp-wrist fairies, the cliché of the times for all homosexuality. In later years, after my parents were divorced I heard that he had some latent homosexual experiences before he remarried two more times. It made a lot of sense to me in retrospect as I could well imagine this tortured man was closeted.

But, my biggest battle in my young life was against my father’s bigotry and racism. He was a Kentucky-born man who was proud of his racist views, though he learned to mask them in the Midwest where he moved for his wife’s family connections. Just as with aping the drunk and the pouf, his Stepin Fetchit numbers may have hidden his own angry refusal to speak of his possibly mixed family roots in the Deep South. Humor was where he attacked because this was culturally acceptable. Also, I believe he was a frightened coward at heart.

Let me be clear, a life without humor is unimaginable. Laughter is healthy, it feels physically cleansing and deliciously sensual. One of my primary fears in my life is taking myself too seriously, and laughter is a great antidote to pomposity or navel gazing. I just think that Melissa makes a wonderful point of laughter or fear of being laughed at is a tool of manipulation. It opens a flood of ruminations.

L75: Loss

I sometimes play tricks on myself. I use the most painful loss in my life and compare it to something I think I am missing, needing or wanting. It works because there isn’t anything in creation that can compare. As of this week there are now (at least) 4,000 families around this country who lost a precious family member to the aggressive invasions and occupations in the Middle East. Nothing these families might purchase will compare with the loved one who is gone forever. Even though those of all ages died and will be mourned, many were still only children, teenagers.

I lost my daughter to suicide with a gun eighteen years ago, when she was only nineteen years old. But on her birth date, March 27, she fills my heart and my thoughts. Her name was Angela and we called her Angel. She was an incredible person – beautiful, intelligent, funny, street smart and very good hearted. I never stop missing her in my life and I celebrate that she was born and that I enjoyed raising her and even working with her - as a young adult. She was the whiz kid techie office manager, who taught herself the IT world and accounting in the Manhattan interior design firm where I worked in the eighties. Not many parents get that experience in this day and age. I cherish the memory.

But this March 27 date does trigger thoughts of loss, just as the May 31 anniversary of Angel’s death does. Loss through death is a part of everyone’s life. Death is particularly devastating when someone dies young, suddenly or without cause. As usual I am trying to glean from all this feeling something that I can grasp to share or use to move along.

Just because Janis Joplin’s lyrics, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose” are so true form me, doesn’t mean I roll over on every loss. I think we all should be fighting tooth and nail for what is becoming a long list of losses for Americans.

Except for a tiny percentage of people who have gained or expanded their extreme wealth, the last eight years has meant loss in every aspect of life:

Through grassroots, netroots, friendships, community councils, neighborhood associations, letters to the editors, unions and book clubs we need to talk to each other and encourage each other. At some point it would be good if we could stop accepting our assigned roles as consumers and become citizens again. I have seen and read how this process was foisted on Americans and then other western countries via advertising after WWII. Check out The Century of the Self documentaries from the BBC for some real insight on this subject.

Oh, did mention that I cancelled my DirecTV yesterday? So, last night was my first night in almost a decade without digital or satellite television. I have been whining about my addiction to television for a very long time. I have claimed that I miss reading novels. Now it is a fait accompli. I watched the above BBC documentaries on my computer instead.

I am really uncomfortable, anxious and cranky. Just like I was when I quit smoking. Just like I was when I decided against internet for some months in ’05. Or when I gave up carbohydrates for most meals or shopping at Wal-Mart . . Or when I stopped eating meat at every meal . . . Or when, you get the idea. We are all conditioned through the onslaught of this consumer social set-up to believe that discomfort is pain. We come to believe that unhappy is just negative thinking or mental depression that is the individual’s responsibility to eliminate instead of something outside of us to address.

We will learn how to get back what we have lost in our country. Many have supposedly died for our way of life. Let’s fight for the way of life our loved ones might have been willing to fight for or we would have longed for them to have lived.

BTW, I will get past this lack of television. I have lost things far more valuable and survived. And, unlike the long list of links above, I chose to lose my television viewing. My choice.

L74+: Leno - Fuck you and the Gay Look

As I wrote the other day, I agreed with Melissa McEwan that Jay Leno is an asshole. Well, Shakespeare's sister herself, Melissa has mounted a wonderfully invigorating campaign, Gayest Look for Leno Collection

Yes, katecontinued contributed this put a cork in it image. Explanation of Jay Leno's assholery here.

I encourage anyone who believes in human rights and telling the corporate media they suck to join in.

Update: This has really taken off.

A whole website has been created by Melissa and Jeff Whitty for those wanting to contribute their Gayest Look for Jay Leno.

My favorite this morning is this contribution.

L74: Leftover Lettuce, Lentils and Lemons

This week is a snore in the food area. The Farmer’s Market didn’t happen because of Easter so I didn’t shop. I also am trying to coax each and every nickel into performing miracles. Maybe it is the season? Anyway, I do still have a bunch of Romaine lettuce and several pea pods from the previous week. The advantage of this fresh food is that it sure lasts longer. My lemons are also hold overs.

The plan for the rest of this week is lots of salads and to use up every bit of food in the refrigerator. I am debating about the kale and beans I made a week ago. I made so much I still have two servings. If it passes the smell test it is a go. When that is done I will be eating lentils. I learned the following recipe years ago from my Lebanese mother-in-law:
Majudarrah - Lebanese Lentils and Rice
1 cup lentils
1/2 -1 cup rice
1 medium to large onions
olive oil
salt & pepper
3 cups water (watch this, may need some more)
plain yogurt for garnish

Sweat the onions: peel and slice or dice them, then fry them slowly in some olive oil until they are golden brown. Add the lentils, water and salt and pepper; cook 15 minutes, then add the rice, cover the pot and finish cooking. I prefer a thick stew, add more water if you desire. Serve with a dollop of yogurt for each bowl. Crusty bread or pita. Serves: 4-6 Note: The image is an Indian version, close enough.

During the Reagan reign I was living on as little as I am now. During those years I fixed it every week as a staple because it was pennies per meal. Add pasta or egg noodles instead of rice, vegetables of the season to change it up. During this leftover week I will be adding whatever is left in the fridge. Since I have the bulk food I have regular lentils as well as the red and yellow.

There isn’t a lot of food excitement within me. Hey, it comes and goes. This is compounded by the new term in these propaganda times of fake titles. It is called food insecurity. We know it as poverty. I was reminded of this recently in No Impact Man’s post about how sustainability is not an option for millions of poor because the system does not support it.

One thing I've become keenly aware of is that living No Impact was entirely predicated on my privileged circumstances. The No Impact project has occasionally been criticized as bourgeois, and I get the point. Eating local is a no-brainer if you live in a rich neighborhood with the cool, local-food farmers' market nearby. Not consuming resources is no problem if a life of purchasing power has provided you with most of what you need.

As Van Jones says: "...you can’t have a sustainable economy when only 20 percent of the people can afford to pay for hybrids, solar panels, and organic cuisine, while the other 80 percent are still driving pollution-based vehicles to the same pollution-based jobs and struggling to make purchases at Wal-Mart..."

I am not poor. Even though I live on about $8K a year, I have a $4K mini-savings. The poor of this country don’t have lump sum amounts available. This is a huge difference as Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out in her book, “Nickel and Dimed - On (Not) Getting By in America.” Also, I live within walking distance from farmer's markets and other healthy food sources. I live near mass transit and nature (the beaches).

I agree with NIM, Colin Beven’s conclusion that living a life of integrity and sustainability is not enough in itself.

"We must beware of environmental solipsism," Bill McKibben once warned me.

Concentrating solely on individual action ignores the fact that there are so many others who either can't or won't live sustainably unless it is as easy as, well, falling off that log. It ignores that fact that one swimmer changing direction does a lot less good than a whole river of swimmers changing direction. And it ignores the fact that living sustainably, and reaping the rewards of that, in the form of, for example, pollution-free air, should not be available only to the privileged.

I’d like to hold this thought, especially as I approach Earth Day in a few weeks.

Flickr Lentil dish photo.(Indian style)

L73: Laundry

This last Christmas Eve I spent the evening with my son. We went to the laundry together. We each had four or five loads because we decided to end the year with clean bedding, towels and all of our clothing fresh and organized. We had a good time strolling down memory lane. I reminded him how he was in charge of doing all of the laundry when he was a senior in high school and we lived in South Philadelphia. He hadn’t remembered that I insisted he do all the laundry all the time because his was the lion’s share of the loads.

My observation was that my kid used a towel and threw it in the laundry, wore a pair of jeans and threw it in the wash pile. My strategy was to make him responsible for it all. Now that doesn’t sound too onerous unless I mention that this was in Philadelphia where we had to schlep our laundry up and down stairs and walk blocks to the Laundromat. The thing is, it hadn’t really changed his heavy laundry loads.

And this is the first thing I want to say about laundry. I think Americans wash clothes more often than necessary. Clothes can be worn more than once unless one’s day is in a physically demanding, filthy place.

Next I want to jump in with the 2008 program I have been following. As I said in past post, air drying and appliances, I air dry my clothes and use the community coin washing machines at $1.25 a load. In that post I also said I’d like the Wonder Wash and I still do. The thing is I decided to buy a solar oven today (another post for another day). I was arguing with myself this afternoon because the cost right now is killing me. It is only $54 with shipping. That will pay for itself before the year is out. That helped me decide to go for it.

Lastly, the major change this year is with the cleaning products. I wrote about getting rid of household cleaners and replacing them with natural products like vinegar, soda, salt, etc. Well, I have also quit with the petrochemical detergent and gone with Soap Nuts.

I use Maggie’s Soap Nuts as these were recommended to me by a neighbor and I can get it from a store within walking distance. According to the website text:
Maggie’s Soap Nuts™ are the only laundry soap that grows on trees!
Truly effective, 100% natural and safe for your most sensitive skin.
Soap NutsTM are the dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry tree.
They contain saponin, a natural cleaner used for thousands of
years to clean clothes, just like the plants used by Native Americans
for washing.

Simply put a few Soap Nuts into the included cotton sack and drop
it in your laundry. Your clothes come out clean, vibrant, and soft.
Replace your laboratory detergents and softeners with the soap
made from Nature by Nature. Your clothes, your skin, your family,

and your planet will thank you.

I couldn’t be happier with this product. It really is pleasant smelling. A part of me questions how this really works as the soap nuts bag stays in the machine during the rinse because the commercial front loader doesn’t allow me to open the door during the whole process.

When I get my Wonder Wash I will be able to remove the little bags prior to rinse.

Another justification besides cost will be no electricity, saving water and the soap’s better efficiency. I will confess to one more advantage. I will be able to launder my toilet wipes at home rather than dragging them to the community laundry. Ha! I am seldom this discreet, but it happens.

Kidding aside, these two consumer goods purchases represent major lifestyle changes towards sustainability. I realize that I am ready to take this on as a life change, not just a sustainability experiment. Yet, I am full cognizant that there will be those who read this and decide it is just off the charts impractical (for him or her). That's cool. For myself there is a growing impatience with half measures. The longer I pursue living simply the more attractive it becomes. It also gets more efficient as I practice. I wonder if it is even coincidental that chile, green bean and others are writing similar words? Somehow it is all connected.

laundromats by Patrick Q at flickr


My intent today was to write a post about short attention spans. I find it ironic that I won't be able to take the time needed to write it. Community garden meeting starts soon and I have kin visiting from the Midwest. Too much on my do list for the next two days.

If this is a holiday for you, enjoy the day. And the Peeps . . . I collect these nutty staged photos of 'Just Born' products and I eat these corn syrup, marshmallow, colored chicks & bunnies once a year. A silly confession, but even admitting it makes me laugh.

K71: Kudos

Kudos to the Brits John Bird and John Fortune for using humor to spell out quite succinctly what is going on with the major issues in the US, affecting the entire world, Iraq and the Economy. Nothing remotely close to these straightforward recitations of facts can be found in our corporate media. Only Jon Stewart comes close.

Thanks to earthfamilyalpha for these links. Do check out their website as there is more information about the surge via Real News.

Kicking some ass . . .
BTW, I conversely need to mini-rant; Jay Leno is an asshole and Bill Maher is a misogynist creep. I have reasons to laugh most every day of my life. These guys and others who try to 'pass' as comics are a sad commentary on our culture.

K70: kWh

Though I was feeling I was walking the talk, feeling smug almost. I slipped. Frankly I started calling it an experiment in power usage. I realized at the beginning of the month that I had forgotten to turn off the water heater for days. (I admit it was nice to have warm water for dishes, etc.)

So, I decided to see how it would affect my kilowatt usage, especially with my not using my space heater with the warmer weather. Well, my meter reading on Monday showed that I used an additional 125 kWh. This is huge compared to my past several months. Extrapolating and including an extra five days in this reading, this meant a daily use of 11.7 kWh compared to 9.8 kWh. Bummer.

As I think about I realize I simply haven’t been as vigilant with turning off power strips, transferring coffee to a carafe while turning off my coffee pot and turning off lights. Another thing came up this month with my induction cooker dying. I have been using my crock pot and a miserable little hot plate. I am sure the hot plate uses more power because it takes so fucking long to heat. Oh yes, I also ate toast this last month. After several years without bread, I find myself back in the carbohydrate camp. Toast means the toaster oven and it is a power glutton.

So, I have called forth my resolve to make this next electric meter reading at least as low as December and January which were 228 and 227 kWh.

Television and the computer are my toughest challenges and I am well and truly contemplating ending my DirecTV. Like an addict, I twitch just thinking of it. I took an interesting quiz via Sierra Club today. I didn’t do so hot, but I will share the information. I don’t know how to embed the quiz that I got via email, so I will simply pass along the information.

If you want to take the quiz before reading this. Go here now.

How Green is My Screen?
  1. All else being equal, how do the three most common television screen technologies rank, from least to most energy intensive?
    Your Answer: LCD screens use the least energy (followed by plasma screens), and cathode ray tubes (CRTs) use the most.
    10 out of 10 points.

LCDs use the least energy of the three leading screen types, followed by plasma screens. Old-fashioned CRT televisions use the most power, especially if it's a way-back-when Philco or Zenith -- two U.S. brands that went defunct long before the arrival of American Idol.

Speaking of way back, give yourself a point if you knew that Fifties guitar god Link Wray used way more energy than any x-ray machine.

  1. A plasma TV uses 30 percent more energy than the same size LCD version.
    Your Answer: True
    10 out of 10 points.

Plasma TVs use about 30 percent more electricity than the equivalent LCD. As for which looks better or lasts longer, ask your favorite TV nerd -- and be prepared for some long answers.

  1. A CRT TV uses three times more energy than the same size LCD version.
    Your Answer: True
    10 out of 10 points.

True. Put your hand atop a tube TV and that warm feeling you get explains why they use so much more energy.

  1. An LCD TV always uses less energy than a CRT model.
    Your Answer: True
    0 out of 10 points.

False, because screen size can quickly overwhelm even an LCD's greater efficiency. For example, the surface area of a 42-inch widescreen TV is four times that of a 20-inch model with the old 4:3 screen ratio. So even though the LCD is more efficient, square inch for square inch, ditching a 20-inch CRT for a 42-inch LCD (a typical upgrade) means you'll actually use three times as much energy. That 42-incher seems downright thrifty, compared to a 65-inch model, which uses more than six times the power of the 20-inch model.

  1. What should you do with your old TV?
    Your Answer: Take it to a local recycling center qualified to handle electronics.
    10 out of 10 points.

If you move that old TV to another room, it's easy to wind up watching more, not less, television. Stashing it in the garage will at least pull the plug on its power-sucking days -- and it is much safer than sending it to the landfill. Best of all: Use the National Center for Electronics Recycling to find a nearby recycling center where it can be safely disposed.

  1. How much electricity is used each year in the U.S. watching TV?
    Your Answer: All of the above.
    10 out of 10 points.

The staggering answer: All of the above. If you're not actually watching the tube, turn it off. If you don't like feeling alone, use a radio or maybe sing to yourself.

  1. How much of that power is consumed by TVs idling in standby mode?
    Your Answer: 10 to 23 percent
    10 out of 10 points.

Standby mode consumes 10 to 23 percent of all that juice. Consider plugging all your electronics into timer-equipped power strips to turn them off completely, at least overnight. In November, it will be much easier to get a fix on a TV's standby vs. active power demands when the federal Energy Star program begins including that information in its ratings.

  1. Under federal law, TV broadcasters have to switch next year to digital-only signals. That means everyone with old analog TVs needs to upgrade.
    Your Answer: True
    3 out of 10 points.

OK, this one's a little tricky. Come Feb. 17, 2009, analog TV signals will cease being broadcast. But 88 percent of all households get their programs via cable or satellite, so analog TVs in those households can keep plugging along just fine.

  1. Will the U.S. save energy once everyone eventually switches from CRTs to the latest LCD and plasma screens?
    Your Answer: Probably not
    10 out of 10 points.

Each new generation of LCD and plasma screens may be more efficient, with organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) the current just-over-the-horizon favorite. The rub comes from how big screens often shoulder their way into your house with lots of friends: surround speaker systems, DVD/DVR machines, cable/HD set tops, and game consoles like the Xbox or Wii. Given that it's common to have such gear in multiple rooms, one study estimates that homes with multiple TVs and their related peripherals can use twice as much juice as a refrigerator, long the fattest electrical hog in every household.

  1. Bonus Question: When I get my new big screen TV, the first thing I want to watch is:
    Your Answer: Planet Earth
    10 out of 10 points.

K69: Killing Fields Baghdad

Five fucking years. I remember marching 5 years and one month ago. In vain. I have been watching Democracy Now each morning this week and listening to the testimonials of the IVAW Winter Soldiers. I heard myself keening this morning. It is filled with the horror of what our soldiers have done and been ordered to do in this country. It was an innocent country and we have raped and killed it. The soldiers are bringing the horrors unresolved and unhealed and even unreported by any corporate news - back to this country.

We will be feeling the effects - the pain, the hate, the grief and the guilt for decades to come.

K68: Kale and Kumquat

My big kick this week at the Farmers Market was seeing kumquats all over the place. How odd it seemed as the Spanish speaking farmer stressed in faltering English and hand signals that I must not peel away the rind. Wow, the rind is sweeter than the sour fruit. It is really counter intuitive for someone like me who only knows Florida and California oranges. I love these little guys. I grew up eating a lemon a day, so sour is definitely okay by me.

I’d hoped for kohlrabi, but it is too early for these. So, I stuck with the tried and true kale. I simmered the a few leaves of kale with the beets beet greens and green onion I had leftover from last week’s trip.I had stock left from fixing black eyed peas and several more cups of liquid from cooking garbanzo beans (for hummus). I cooked the brown rice in this the day before which I added with sheep’s cheese. The latter was a real splurge for me at the Farmer’s Market. I always pass up the Middle Easter booth because the prices are too high to justify when I can make the things myself. But, he brought this sheep’s cheese for the first time. I love it. I also bought a few pea pods.

Did I mention that this dish fed me several meals and I loved it. I think that the liquid from the beans and the sheep’s cheese is what made it sing.

At Sunday’s market the egg and potato farmer is a real sweetheart. I was asking him about making chits for potatoes like Melinda at Elements in Time wrote about this last week. The farmer said that I could just cut the little purple Peruvians and fingerlings I was holding and put them directly in the ground. He said they really prefer sand or sandy soil. He and another couple of farmers were good to talk to Sunday. I asked them all if they would consider coming over to our community garden some time and giving us advice. I figure it couldn’t hurt and it is yet another way to create community. I am so grateful these farmers get up early and come to us each week.

In January I wrote about cabbage being one of the cleansing foods. I want to make a point of saying how much healthier I feel than I did in January. It isn’t that I am surprised about this; I just don’t want to forget to celebrate the fact – frequently. According to nutritional analysis, Kale is a superfood. It’s a member of the Brassica family of vegetables, which include cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
And kale is loaded with the organosulfur compounds that may lessen the occurrence of some cancers. Studies suggest that the phytonutrients in kale and other Brassicas may actually help the liver neutralize potentially cancerous substances.
Kale is loaded with nutrients and compounds that aid in warding off other diseases and ailments as well. For example, kale is packed with beta-carotene, an important nutrient for good vision. Several studies link an increase in vitamin A and beta-carotene in one’s diet with a decrease in developing cataracts. Kale is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which is good for cold prevention, as well as a reduced risk of colon cancer. Finally, kale is rich in minerals, such as iron, manganese, calcium and potassium.
How do you prepare this superfood? Aside from being rich in phytochemicals, kale is versatile.
That is my seque to my other use for Kale this week. I confess I had the hummus made already and I didn’t have any sundried tomatoes. Lastly, I utilize the whole leaf of what I think I have here, Dinosaur Kale. But this recipe from VeganYumYum is a good one to have on hand.
Kale and Sundried Tomato Hummus
Makes approx. 1 1/2 cups
1 Can Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 Tbs Tahini
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Sundried Tomatoes (about 5)
1 Small Head Kale, de-veined and steamed
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Fresh herbs (Optional, I used oregano)
Rinse chickpeas and place into food processor. Add salt, tahini, water, oil and blend until very smooth.
Remove and discard tough stems from kale with scissors. Steam until tender and bright green, shock under cool water, then squeeze as much water out as possible (see photo to the left). Break kale ball apart and place in processor with sundried tomatoes. Gently pulse until ingredients are well combined, but you can still see chunks of kale and tomatoes. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

And though this post grows longer and longer, I want to add one more versatile kale recipe from VeganYumYum because it contains foods I keep on hand. A really fine source of protein in one bowl.

Kale Soup
I can imagine people who aren’t used to kale, quinoa, and tahini might need some easing into this one, but here you are nevertheless. Here’s the version I made:
Creamy Kale Soup
Serves 2-3 dinner sized portions
1/2 Cup Green Lentils
1/2 Cup Quinoa (I like to use half-and-half)
1/2 Medium Onion, finely chopped
4 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Small Bunch Kale
5 cups water
1 tsp Cumin, heaping
1/2 tsp Curry Powder
1 Veg Bullion Cube
3 Tbs Tahini
2-3 Tbs Tamari or Soy Sauce
Wash and de-stem kale (I use kitchen scissors to cut along the sides of the stems), tear the leaves into smallish pieces. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, and add quinoa and lentils. Sautee for a few minutes, add spices and kale. Mix well. Add water and bullion cube and bring to a boil. Cover and turn down heat to low. Simmer for 35-40 minutes.
Carefully blend the hot soup in a food processor or blender and return to pot. You can skip this step or blend only half of the soup if you want some texture, but I think it’s nicest smooth. Add tahini and tamari to taste.
To garnish, mix 1-2 Tbs of tahini with a small amount of water until it becomes smooth and bright. Drizzle on top of the soup and serve.

I think I will just use water I have cooked vegetables in or miso since I don’t buy vegetable bullion cubes.

Gorgeous photos and recipes from VeganYumYum

K67: Kitchen Daydreams, dish drying edition

The kitchen daydreams continue with another wonderful design called Flow. Here is an incredible prototype invented by John Arndt that completely captures the reuse, reduce, recycle concept and more. It is called Flow and it incorporates whole systems in drying dishes, watering plants and composting kitchen scraps. I don’t even know if it is for sale. I know that I am going to create my own knock-off of this inspired design. I think you will enjoy this.

This whole system includes the terra cotta clay pots with specific functions including evaporative cooling fridge box and planters.
The hole in the counter and rolling compost bin with worms is pretty cool. I am not interested in that because my composting is handled.

The table yesterday is still appealing to me for the bits of trash from meals and mail. And, frankly I don’t have a spot in my set up for a kitchen counter composter. The real stars though are the hanging units for the plates. I think I can figure out how to rip off the glass and cup concept, but the plate rack is a balance issue that has me puzzled. I will have to daydream about this for a very long time.

The dishrack takes advantage of the smallest amounts of wasted water and puts it to use to water the herbs and edible plants growing in the planter boxes. The rack also eliminates the need for a cupboard allowing the dishes to be easily accessible. The plants also help attract dust which helps to keep the dishes clean and the dripping water helps to wash off the dust.

My own kitchen has some problems. It is temporary as I ran out of money when I moved in and renovated. I re-used the old white (stained) laminate counter I’d pulled from the trailer and tossed. The old counter is resting on two IKEA cabinets without doors. My kitchen sink is a big plastic laundry sink I bought for about $20 with a faucet costing 3 times that amount. I made curtains for the fronts from a paint cloth. I made a top channel in each and threaded them onto an electrical conduit or pipe I installed with electrical clips. This is the setup until I have enough money or courage to buy or make a concrete counter with a stainless steel sink. To make this would not cost much, but the work demands some real strength and competence. It intimidates me something fierce.

The temporary nature of my kitchen set-up also includes the old jalousie windows that leak. These windows were originally lower, but I asked the handyman to raise them. It turns out that the new location is perfect for catching all the rainwater that flows off the curved trailer roof. When it rains I line up cans with bowls and pans on top of them to catch the row of droplets coming in the back windows. So, wouldn’t a window conservatory affair with planter inset at the sill height and these dish draining racks above be perfect? I think so.

I will continue to daydream and to draw up plans on the computer. It is just a matter of time because it always works out somehow with found objects, barter or bargains. It just does.

Check out Flow.

K66: Kitchen Daydreams, table edition

I daydream . . . a lot. I believe it is a critically important part of living. I am thrilled when I solve problems through daydreams. During my years in university study I once jokingly wrote a syllabus for a class I imagined in Daydreams 101.

A critical component was the importance of balancing practical restraints with blue sky thinking. Clearly I am not the only person who does this. One of my favorite pastimes is checking the web for innovative design. Designers are constantly turning flights of fancy into functional products, tools and processes. And it doesn’t have to look like Popular Mechanics.

In this way I feel my daydreams are grounded. Here is the earth aspect of imagination. My post on my worms yesterday reminded me of one of my favorite pieces of furniture, the ‘Digestive Table.' I find this captivating. The designer, Amy Youngs has considered every detail for the process of our eating, viewing, composting as well as the comfort of the worms. She even specifies that the Oak used is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) cerified with a stain made from beets and worm tea. The website even features a video of the table in use by this Mr. Regular Guy (her spouse?) as the model.
I would like to clarify that I am interested in stealing these ideas and using them in my own DIY way. I haven't the income to even consider buying. That is a sad admission because I believe these designers (like authors, musicians, artists, etc.) should be compensated for what they do. But, that is a post for another time if not another blogger.

I will dedicate this post to my BFF who emailed me that the last post on worms grossed her out so much she had to quickly scroll past the images. I suspect she wouldn't be interested in the Digestion Table's screen to watch the worms and bugs eating the garbage. That camera feature is something I will definatly eliminate if I were ever to make my own model. I have a vivid enough imagination, so I don't need the surveillance camera thankyouverymuch.

I am chuckling as I type this. The miserably gross task is over for now, I have cleaned up my blog today.

J65: Juice O'Worms

I am so grossed out. Bad worm wrangler than I am, I now have a seriously smelly wormery with many, many gallons of worm juice that has gone off. At the farmer's market this morning I spoke with the woman who sold me the worms. I told her how derelict I have been as their (the worms') caretaker. Here is the back story . . .

Last year throughout the spring and summer I ‘fed’ the wormery my scraps, occasionally sprinkled some water and added fresh newsprint. This was a whole new experience. Mid-summer I realized there were gallons of worm juice in the bottom reservoir that I had to drain off and feed to my garden and to plants. I also added another plastic rack to the two storey wormery low rise.

In the fall, following the autumnal equinox (I love marking the year with these planetary dates) in September I looked at the mid level and it was a solid mass of worm poo. After trying to pull out a bunch of worms from this solid mass and placing them in the top level (to keep doing what they do), I dumped the entire block ‘o poo onto my vegetable garden.

My garden is a small raised bed I built last year from scrap wood of a demolished pergola. The soil was free and pretty lousy, so this worm poo should help amend it. I covered the worm treasure with garden leftovers, aka green/brown compost. Then my tale takes a turn.

The Santa Ana dry winds and wildfires swooped down on Southern California. Although I didn’t have to evacuate, it was frightening and I also went through a real pit of ennui. I ate chips and crap instead of real food for weeks. Hence I had nothing to feed the worms. I started becoming afraid to even check on the few remaining worms. Guilty.

In November I peeked and saw a pile of mold and decay. Someone told me that mold kills the worms. (This photo isn't from my place, but you get the idea.)So I was convinced the worms were dead. I failed to attend to the mess or bury this decay or clean the wormery all winter. I ate at me that those tasks needed to be done and then I could buy new worms in their clean coconut vegetation bedding. And, finally I would start eating properly again.

Yes indeed, I carry that rock around. Silly woman. I finally took a look again in January. New year, new resolve, renewed eating patterns and sustainability my raison d’être compelled me to lift off the two storeys. Gah.

The bottom was a worm swimming pool, emphasis on the poo. A neighbor who sells worm juice in his tree business suggested I simply add dirt to this liquid mess to give the worms purchase - to climb up to the next storey and to clean up the dirt. Those guys are little organic dirt cleaners. So, I did that.

I have also added more fresh bedding material to the top layer. I put paper egg cartons, my identity labels ripped off of all my mail, personal papers and flyers. I also added holiday cards, newspapers and naturally all of the organic waste from coffee grounds to vegetable muck.

Today I questioned the worm seller about how to deal with that pesky lower level. How do I separate live worms from the poo, garbage and dirt? She suggested I spread a tarp and dump the contents onto it. The worms will all migrate away from the sun. So, I can systematically corral them. She said it could take some days.

So, an hour ago I spread the tarp out on my driveway. I checked the top layer. I needed to pull all of the citrus peels from the compost. Apparently there is something that will kill the worms in the peel. Oops. (That is poo backwards BTW). That part was disgusting, smelly and there are 4 million fruit flies. The second layer was pretty much poo. I know, the proper term is worm castings. I am beside myself because the bottom of the bin is full of dirt, poo, juice (pee) and stink. Holy shit this is beyond me, beyond my strength. I have grossed myself out. Help!

Alas, two more hours later and I found help. I needed some testosterone to lift that sucker to the driveway (30 feet away) and dump it. I found a great guy, the manager. Then my tree man next door helped me spread it all out. Vile, vile, vile smell. And to top it off there are now strange tiny white worms too.

According to the Worm Master, Bently Christie
The tiny worms you have described sound like White Worms, also known as ‘Pot Worms’. These small worms are closely related to earthworms (including the ‘composting worms’) and tend to spring up, seemingly out of nowhere, when conditions get a little acidic in the bin. I’ve had huge population explosions of white worms when I’ve added too much starchy material (rice) and it has gone sour on me (anaerobic fermentation). The worms themselves are completely harmless but they MAY indicate that your bin has become somewhat acidic. You might want to mix in some more shredded cardboard (or whatever bedding you are using) along with some crushed egg shells (if you happen to have some).

I hosed down the bin and put it back together all clean. The gunk on the tarp will be there a few days as I try to wrangle what worms are living within into a small enough area to retrieve them. I have also decided to stop feeding my worms until the worms catch up with the kitchen waste I have already added.

I am a better person to have faced down my failure to allow my worms to thrive. I feel chastened. I still believe that worm composting isn't difficult and is relatively maintenance free. It is not totally maintenance free.

The worms need:
So what exactly do the worms need?
1) Moisture
2) Warmth
3) A Food source
4) Darkness
5) Oxygen

Here is a great link to the first of two short videos. Oh how I wish I'd seen these last year. Redworm Composting is a great place to visit for anyone interested.

J64: Join

The word join usually is my cue to exit stage left. But an integral part of my year in living a life of sustainability necessitates leaving my hermitage on occasion and working with others. I have written about some interactions with my neighbors. But, I haven't been consistent or ventured very far.

Several weeks ago I took a real leap into community by participating in a city workshop on the Highway 101 streetscape for the 2 miles in front of my home. I also have been attended a city council meeting and viewed several of them live streaming on my computer. I approached city council members, emailed and have been commenting regularly on a local blog. This is pretty big 'joining in' step for me at the community level. As a liberal I have never felt 'at home' in these western bodies. In the 80's I lived in upstate New York, Manhattan and Philadelphia where I felt shared political values with so many others living in those places.

Moving to Phoenix in '92 indeed felt like moving to a desert. I feel similarly here in Southern California. I will admit that I didn't dig deeply into the red state community groups. I just stayed to myself. But, I am pushing through my reluctance to have some beginnings of a grassroots experience. The other beginning is my participation in my mobile home park's resident association board. This only entails a meeting once or twice a year.

Now the last two weeks, since I haven't been writing on my blog, I have been writing possible city council presentations and composing several newsletter drafts. Some interested neighbors and I are trying to drum up more participation in a Community Garden for our 'soulful little' mobile home park. We also want to do some art projects around the park. This is timely with city council action coming up with mobile home parks, with the rising cost of food and to help us all build community for whatever the future will bring. The city could be contemplating eminent domain, despite talk of needing the only bit of low income housing the city can claim.

The garden is something that will help us all focus on empowering ourselves rather than stewing in paranoia or general anxiety. So, I have joined with others. It is good to venture out of my comfort zone now and again. It is also a way to be an example of living more lightly. Already so many themes of combating waste and conserving water have come up conversationally. There will be the junk that comes up with group processes, but I just know I will get more than I give.

J63: Jury

You be the judge, how fun would this be? I myself would love to have the ability to speak with 21 different accents. Then again, I am easily amused.

I decided to continue with my fluff posts for a time. News around the world is pretty discouraging. As Greenpa at Little Blog in the Big Woods says today,
Boy, it's just a doom-sayer's holiday out there these days. Pick your imminent global disaster, there's evidence galore.

J62: Jerks

This week has been a disappointment in liberals.

Powers calls Clinton a monster.
Spitzer indicted in prostitution ring and resigns.
Ferraro spews racist remarks about Obama.

Powers is a Harvard professor and she has a stunningly background of accomplishments in foreign service. Divisive Disappointment.

Spitzer as a change agent was nothing less than stunning within the corporate corruption universe of the republican and democratic parties. Hypocritical Disappointment.

Ferraro was one of my feminist heroes. Bigoted Disappointment.

I am too pissed to link to the grubby facts of each. One has to be sound asleep not to have come across the stories anyway. And, yes, I do expect better, much much better.

J61: Jump

Jump in front of a moving train? Can you imagine what is going on inside someone to step in front of a speeding train? Two women did that practically in front of my home last week.

One week ago the first woman was reported to have been commemorating the one year anniversary of her father's death - on these same tracks. The newspaper story reported that she and her husband went to the tracks for a memorial of sorts. Sounds pretty dicey. By the end of the week the story sounded more like suicide.

Saturday morning, with the sunshine streaming and the streets filled with people, a second woman jumped in front of a southbound moving train. Her death is reported as being investigated as a suicide.

There is a world of hurt out there. Grab the people near you and hug. This may be another really light week of posting. As with last week, I feel the need to step away from the blog a bit. I will be back.

Speeding train Flickr photo
Local law photo from J.P

I60: Inside Poop

Via the Onion
2008 Election Results

And Poll: Bullshit is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

Note: Even the commercial is bullshit. There is not one shred of information that matters in the entire commercial. Bonus points if you can find any food related value in what is shown or stated. It is entirely about - pretty girl picks you.

I59: I'm In!

I am proud to report that I am now on Shakesville's Blogroll! This is indeed an honor as my blog is a baby blog, only months old. Thank you Melissa McEwan.

The Shakesville blog is filled with really talented writers and is a safe place to post and to comment. I am proud to be a face in the Shakesville photo and now a name on the blogroll. I highly recommend a recent post by Melissa titled, Feminism 101:"Calling Out Fellow Progressives for Sexism Prevents Unity on the Left" as the best post I have read this year.

I am also happy to say that Chile Chews, Step Wise, Elements in Time and Darkblack have all included me on their blogrolls. I value the recognition, the link, the traffic and often the comments from these interconnections.

My hope is that there be cross-pollination in these various worlds. I am grateful for the introduction from them to my internet home.

I58: Invest Instead

This will be another day of my being 'in' but I wanted to just leave a thought for today. This morning I heard some numbers and my mind wrestled with teh maths. Apparently it will cost $3,000,000,000,000 for this fucking war! Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Economist Linda Bilmes write on the true cost of the this illegal US invasion and occupation of Iraq in their book, Three Trillion Dollar War. In fact they estimate it could reach five trillion.

So if there are about six billion people on earth, I'd suggest that $500 - $833.33 for every single child, woman and man on earth. Just using the first number . . .

$3,000,000,000,000 ÷ 6,000,000,000 = $500

Much better deal. Talk about stimulating the economy! Talk about capturing hearts and minds. I would sleep better as a human being. We are monsters to the rest of the world.

I56: In

Today all my power, force and energy is being directed into my dwelling, belongings, interior projects and inside myself. If all goes well, the ‘in’ energy might last all week. You all will have to just wait.