Q114: Quinoa

The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as "chisaya mama" or "mother of all grains", according to Wikipedia.
This reference goes on to say:

In contemporary times this crop has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete food. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

This is one of the primary reasons I have added quinoa to my food world. If I am removing meat products and reducing dairy and eggs, I want to be sure I attempt more protein.

Besides this, I first sampled quinoa (KEEN-wah) in a local Peruvian restaurant. This place is part of the Slow Food movement and is owned by Peruvians. The dishes I sampled there two years ago were just lovely and quinoa was one of my prized finds.

Fun fact to know and tell: Did you know that quinoa is the least mucous-producing grain? (Stole that from a blog commenter named Roosie).

The other reason I am enamored of this quasi-grain, pseudo-cereal, carbohydrate is diversity. Wheat, corn, soy and rice have all been over-planted, genetically modified, destroyed by drought or kept from farmer's fields around the world. With the horror stories of our Mono-Crop, Agri-business, World Trade Organization, Terminator Seeds, International Monetary Fund, Hedge Fund Vultures destroying diversity, indigenous farmers and economies in hundreds of countries – while starving millions upon millions of people for profit, I am guessing quinoa isn’t on the radar screens yet. I am learning to eat it, fix it, grow it and introduce other American native grains. Amaranth is my next diversity quasi-grain, pseudo-cereal (it's not technically a grass). It has the advantage of being beautiful as well as healthy. I have planted it in my own garden and the community garden is next.

Today I planned to have had quinoa and spring onions from the farmer’s market in the solar oven all morning. Well, I had clouds, sprinkles and no sun. Plan B is the cast iron pan to caramelize the onions and then add the quinoa with a bit of miso, salt and pepper. Simple. Oh yes, I added two tiny green onions from my own raised bed garden. They were from last year. I planted that raised bed garden yesterday according to my square foot plan. The two onions were out of their 2 square foot area so they were harvested early. By following the Wikipedia link above the straightforward information about quinoa is right there, but I should emphasize the need to rinse the quinoa. Yesterday I put it in water to soak overnight even though that is not needed. But, I did rinse it several times today before adding it to the onion mixtures. The ratio of water to quinoa is the same as rice.

This week is the end of the month, I fucked up with overdrafts and I didn’t go to the Farmer’s market because of the Laundromat costs – so I am eating from my food storage and what was left from the previous week. This is something that I think is like a test run for people of privilege and/or people of means (read: income). What is it to simply say I don’t have money for food? It is arbitrary for me as I have a lump sum I’m living off of as long as I can manage. But what if I had no reserve and simply hit the end? Time to get creative with what is at hand.

Though this photo shows that quinoa is an attractive plant as well as nutritious, it has no chance compared with the beauty of amaranth. I will be writing more about this edible, ornamental this summer. I just couldn’t resist an image.

Q113: Qualifications = Old and Bored?

This ad I spotted Sunday scares the piss out of me. I have a picture in my mind’s eye of a lot of bored old white men with serious attitudes of hate, fueled by fear and propaganda. Hey, I qualify and would no doubt create a stir if I showed up. If I were a tad braver I’d have QUESTION AUTHORITY tattooed on my forehead. Yes, I realize this is hyperbole.

I believe that we are on a fast tract to a police state. Did you notice that the POL was dropped for the new moniker for Federal Immigration cops? ICE! I think it is to make one’s blood turn cold in fear. Quiver and quake – the name of the game in what is euphemistically called ‘Security’ in the new Orwellian fantasy land of America. Who’s security? Despite the evidence of swaggering police becoming more aggressive with fewer consequences, as with the acquittal of the NYC police officers who gunned down Sean Bell, we are asked to believe that “to serve and protect” is the guiding force. I can’t reconcile old and bored with serve and protect.

Naomi Klein has written a brilliant book, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and countless articles. You all know how to Google, but I will start you off with this from the Nation . . .

I have this on the brain this morning because I found out that Blackwater is trying to sneak into South San Diego after having been thwarted by the community of Potrero they have gone to some lengths to conceal their intent to build a training facility anyway. The information is here via the Courage Campaign of California, an incredible Activist Group.

You see, Naomi Klein speaks about Blackwater in the following excerpt:


As we have seen time and time again in the Bush Administration, virtually every possible government function is outsourced to corporate contractors, often with no bidding for those contracts. The middle-class and poor get stomped on and squeezed, but the corporate behemoths and multinationals — the Bechtels and Halliburtons and Blackwaters and KPMGs — make out like bandits. Graft and corruption are built into the system, with billions simply disappearing into corporate black holes, with the Administration conveniently looking the other way. And the general public, of course, winds up paying for all this transfer of wealth and is left holding the bag in the form of lack of spending on public needs and infrastructure upkeep and a huge debt burdening future generations.

"A more accurate term for a system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist but corporatist," writes Klein. (p. 87) (Mussolini described this amalgam of government and business as fascism.)

"Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor, and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security. ... Other features of the corporatist state tend to include aggressive surveillance (once again, with government and large corporations trading favors and contracts), mass incarceration, shrinking civil liberties and often, though not always, torture." (p. 15)

At times, Klein seems to be suggesting that such behaviors are but unfortunate and accidental by-products of over-zealous free-marketeers, but mostly she leans in the direction of a conscious conspiracy on the part of the corporatist manipulators of the economy and body politic. For example, she says, "the extreme tactics on display in Iraq and New Orleans are often mistaken for the unique incompetence or cronyism of the Bush White House. In fact, Bush's exploits merely represent the monstrously violent and creative culmination of a fifty-year campaign for total corporate liberation." (p.19)

Add to the mix the horror that is the US prison system where we have the largest ratio of prisoners to population in the world at 1 in every 100 in this country is in jail. And it is big business, run by corporatists as a new kind of slavery, according to human rights groups. No surprise to thinking, reading people that the prison population is disproportionatly people of color. Update: This link is what I had in mind. "KBR-Halliburton Get $385 million contract to build detention centers just in case they are needed."

Alright, already - I am not a journalist and this just creeps me out. I can read, absorb, take an action or sign a petition. I can’t seem to write an essay that does anything more than hint at this police state issue. I lack any kind of courage except to 'encourage'. I will encourage you to see these primary sources for the ‘real’ stories. Enough? No, not nearly while it is much better than to deny the reality or refuse to acknowledge the dangers.

I just want to say that Blackwater is too damn close. Just as I feared the miserable qualifications of 'old and bored.' This company is built on the intimidation factor of armed men who are 'young and angry.' The following video from the Courage Campaign speaks to the quality of life that is the exact opposite of this secret army of assassins and intimidation forces.

A Potrero, CA farmer speaks about the quiet of his community. It is rural, small and water dependent . . . This company doesn't belong here.

Q112: Quantity – US burning through oil

I really don’t have anything to add to this. Overconsumption is the heart and soul of it. I think this New York Times graphic is a powerful one. It is important to keep ourselves clear on a few facts.
Click on image to embiggen

When you hear a ridiculous ‘argument’ I suggest you say, "No. That is factually incorrect, and I believe that you know that it's factually incorrect."

This simple sentence was brought to you by that erudite Portly Dyke and I am grateful for its utter simplicity.

If each of us could then hold these few statistics from this image, we will have made a case to be proud of. I believe that is called ‘representing’ . . .

Update: I spotted this video at Shakesville, more fun facts can't hurt.

P111: Priorities and Patterns

Well I did it. I threw myself with a vengeance into the public sphere with this week and the previous several weeks. And I will admit right up front that I have been an all or nothing person my whole life. At one point I thought it was a Capricorn thing – one track person. It is exhilarating, it brings great clarity and a building of purpose, but there is a down side. Everything else goes to $hit.

I used to beat myself up. Now I just know I have to deal with the fallout – like getting a vaginal infection every time I take antibiotics. There are whole hierarchies of priorities I have ignored.

pri•or•i•ty [prahy-awr-i-tee]
1387, from Old French -- priorite (14th century), also from Middle Latin -- prioritatem (nom. prioritas) "fact or condition of being before." The verb prioritize was first recorded in 1973, apparently coined during the 1972 U.S. presidential election.

I just had to include that last line, thanks distributorcap.

I am especially bummed that this year of low impact and sustainability I have slipped up this month (but mostly just this last week). What it reminds me of is how difficult it is for working people across this country to do the right things for sustainability. These things take much more labor and time than unconscious, wasteful living. Here are some of the things I was lax about in an almost defiant – “I’m workin’ here!” kind of way:

  • I didn’t fix salads, cook food – just ate badly and skipped meals
  • I let food go off rather than take time to prepare a meal
  • I didn’t do laundry and the piles laid around
  • I started laundry load in wonder wash and let it sit too long and stink
  • I didn’t do dishes and surfaces all over my place filled up (saw my very first roach in 3 years)
  • I didn’t make my bed or clear clothes I’d pulled from closet to sort
  • I didn’t pick up after myself in any area
  • I didn’t check on wormery or start my own garden
  • I left water heater and power strips on most of month
  • I didn’t use carafe instead of leaving coffee maker on
  • I didn’t check my bank balance and had to pay $20 in overdraft fees
  • I succumbed to Laundromat, buying ‘green’ detergent, Borax and some Clorox and using dryer.

Yikes! A mindless disregard for health, money, energy, resources, serenity, cleanliess and challenge goals. But, damn the community garden and the community painting projects are just wonderful. A job truly well done.

This reminds me. Have you ever noticed that workaholics are praised and encouraged? Can the same be said for any other addiction? (Maybe acting and politics.) I used to be a serious workaholic (big surprise) and I found the validation and reinforcement made it really impossible for me to get off that kick. I had to leave to the corporate environment.

In order for me to work in a more balanced way (when I started my own business) I created an Excel spreadsheet with all the facets of my life that I value. Besides the business tasks I included friends, family, health, food, home projects, finances, maintenance, fashion/appearance, exercise/fitness, others/community and spirit. Each week for a year and a half I made notations in these various categories and subcategories. I was able to see in a glance and with a couple of words what my patterns looked like overall.

I retrained myself to take those 15 minutes each am and 15 minutes at night to do some routine things. I used that popular 15 minute approach to break down major purging, remodeling, landscaping and sewing projects. This was from the Flylady Website. I have said in past entries, I learned a lot at that site and highly recommend it despite the unctuous writing and sentimentalism.

But, the passion I felt while engaged in these recent community projects was exhilarating. I simply have to clear the decks, take some personal time and get back on track. Jump on the Buddhist Middle Way. I just need to get a little cheerleading for my home team. (That would be me, myself and I).

Sadly, I can't credit the images as I snagged them long before I was blogging. I will happily credit them if they can be identified. The first one totally cracks me up.

P110: Permaculture or Planting Intensely

Peak Moment TV™ public access television features a program “Community Responses for a Changing Energy Future”. The episode here is one urban farmer’s tour of his rental property growing enough produce, fruit, legumes, grains, medicinal plants and chickens for his family’s “permaculture-informed” backyard sustainability.

For me it throws out that whole notion that one must have all the answers before beginning. Like our own community garden or my own square foot and container gardens, it is most important to simply plant. Get things in the ground.

The radically new concepts I learned watching this video relate to that permaculture is a very long-term commitment. Secondarily, it is a growing system designed for land owners, rather than renters. Besides permaculture facts, this backyard gardener, Scott McGuire changed my notion of pests. I may have to devote a post on this as it has shaken my long held notions. Lastly, McGuire stresses seed storage as an emergency item.

This little video is jam packed. I am glad I stopped by Treehugger today.

Update: I am reminded that I posted a permaculture related video in February, Desalinating Desert Dirt, that tells a story just this side of miraculous. I'd forgotten that the narrator says, "You can solve all problems with a garden."

P109: Pain and Paint

I painted all day today and the colors are my happiness. I felt so full of it I even found a bunch of old bottles of acrylic craft paints and made up several pearlized pinks with metalic copper thrown into the mix. Hell, I don't even like pink and I thought this was fantastic. We are painting an old weathered fence down a narrow walkway. We are mixing these free paints and watering them down so that they act more like a wash or a stain to the old wood. The grain still comes through, but the look is fresh. It also helps make the walkway appear wider because it is brighter. It isn't done though. I had to stop.

Thing is my hands are killin' me from this past couple weeks of intense manual work with my mitts. I don't have the endurance right now. I think it is making me cranky.

People can be such a royal pain in the ass about paint. This is an observation based on a career in commercial interior design. Some people treat a color selection like it is a decision about surgery. It is fucking paint.

I simply can't believe the number of people (especially men) who say stupid shit about the fence. How terrified are people of color? (Jeebus, what an appropriate question in this racist culture.) It is fucking paint, folks. I am not attempting to re-wire your homes or remove your plumbing. If you are that upset about 70-100 fence slats no longer in their faded, moldy state - please avert your eyes and hurry past the cobalt blues, aqua, raisin, lilac, paprika, etc. Keep your arms close to your body so as not to touch the happy boards.

Same with the garden. . . Trained to critique it seems. Because these same people haven't volunteered their help they might have to help themselves to a cup of shut the fuck up.

Early to bed tonight. Tomorrow I am devoting all of my time and attention to my neglected personal space as I am likely to bite someone in the public sphere.

P108: Power Harvesting

Today I wish that I could wrangle some power and energy out of the skies. I just had to post this wonderful image. My neighbor emailed a power point presentation with this as the last slide. I suspect it is an AOL thing as this is a popular format for AOL. At any rate, I think this picture is wonderfully empowering (pun not deliberate).

Update: I do love this image, but I confess I have been fighting an urge and I can't be silent any longer. Did anyone else notice the old woman is doing all the work and the old white man is grasping all the power with an expression of patriarchal entitlement and privilege? The old white men as high profile for slave masters and undeserved recipients of earth's bounty is seared into me.

I know I can create a heartwarming story to fit the images of these two that bespeak shared love and labor - without the taint of all recorded history. But I won't today.

P107: Potatoes, Peas and Planting

I was reading a website I really enjoy called Wasted Food the other day and was charmed by the innocence and enthusiasm of the blogger, Jonathon. He showed this picture of potatoes from his refrigerator. He was so guilty about forgetting them, failing to eat them and letting them sprout. I found it a delight to read in the comment thread that Jonathon didn’t know he could plant these in the ground and get potatoes. He was exuberant.

This week my food post is a little different. I am in full tilt boogie planting mode, so I haven’t been preparing food. I was thankfully fed by my son with a restaurant meal or two, I ate popcorn one meal and I have skipped a bunch of meals. Everything in my home and patterns are in disarray.

The planting project is gargantuan and I am putting all my energy toward that. Early this morning I placed the labels I made last night in the rows. I still have a zillion more to make, but I needed to feel some accomplishment. As I start this day my hands are barkin’ because I am using muscles intensely – muscles seldom used in my hands. That is my theory and it works for me better than arthritis, so I am sticking to it.

Back to the potatoes and peas. . . Some weeks ago I got advice and free potatoes from a farmer at my farmer’s market. He told me how to grow potatoes. One of his methods was to just take a barrel and put sand in it and bury some potatoes. When green starts showing, throw more sand and potatoes in and continue this all the way to the top. In some (I forget the duration) amount of time you will have a barrel filled with potatoes. I think we may try this. In the meantime I have the few Peruvian purple and fingerlings that he gave me. They have sprouted and I am going to plant them today in a spot already designated for potatoes.

Last Sunday I got some snow peas for my salads. But, as we were planting we realized we didn’t have any seeds for snow peas. So, today I will donate a bunch of my snow peas to plant around a couple palm trees. We intend to have them climb the palms. Several of the palms already have scarlet runner beans planted around them.

My planting partner, the young manager, took apart Roma tomato for its seeds a couple of weeks ago. These seedlings have grown like crazy and we hope to get them planted today too.

This is so basic a cycle from the garden to the table to the ground or to the worms to the ground. I hope more and more neighbors start getting how really simple this might be for our small group of 49 homes. And maybe someone will be as thrilled as Jonathon with this discovery of the relationship of our food to the earth.

As a post script, I will mention that I purchased my very first pomelo at the farmer's market Sunday. This grapefruit like citrus was the size of a child's head. It was huge. The farmer and his wife speak very little English, so a woman jumped in and started explaining to me that a pomelo was related, but not a grapefruit. The outer skin is very thick and the sections need to be peeled to separate the tough skin from the fruit. It is mild and sweet, not in the least bitter like grapefruit.

I won't be trying it again any time soon though, because it was just too much work to get to the good stuff, and a huge pile of waste. I could make candied peel if I cooked with such things, but I don't. I thought it would be a good grab and eat food for this busy week, but it was not that simple. Bitch, bitch, bitch. I think I am distracted, tired, aching and cranky. But, I am grinning about the damn garden. It is beautiful.

P:106 Planting and Planning

Whatever I lack in knowledge, I hope to compensate with planning. Then the rest is simply doing and trying and watching the one's who seem to know.

During this community effort I have been ahead of the pack on getting things down on paper. My object is primarily to communicate because I do this best on paper (or virtual paper) and secondarily I know the value of a record. I don't believe that anyone can carry around 1,000 sf of garden decisions in his or her head.

Come next fall - for the fall planting - we will have an annotated landscape plan to guide us for the next season's planting, and the next.

Teh plan here is only about a third of the garden beds to be planted. I need to get out there and get to work. I woke in the middle of the night wide awake. So, I worked on this and fell back asleep at dawn for another 5 hours! This will be one crazy Earth Day for me.

P105: Planting Continues . . .

It has taken weeks to get things planted at our community garden. Here is the deal, I for one have had no desire to take it all on myself. I have done martyrdom in my youth and I find it utterly distasteful. When I see someone doing this I try to stay far away and refuse to praise. Whole industries and religious paths are built on this ‘seemingly selfless’ behavior. To me it seems it is a kind of passive aggressive phenomenon.

On the other hand, I know what it feels like to feel passion and excitement. I really like the energy that comes with engagement, that blush of pleasure from simply waking up to a new day. That is the kind of joy that feeds my spirit. I think everyone has something that tickles that essence. I am a great cheerleader for that kind of raison d’ĂȘtre.

I have not hesitated to work alongside any interested neighbor (which has happened half a dozen times). I have written three newsletters, compiled a seed spreadsheet of information, a garden plan, built 2 planters with my son, painted said planters, stolen rocks from public land for planter pots, hauled soil from the gardens to the planters, planted the planters, made labels, mounted labels on bamboo sticks, marked pots with labels bases on plan notes, planted a quarter of the main garden, water all of the plantings and scheduled for this week.

My only point in listing all of this is to record for myself and anyone interested the mountain of minutia attached to a community effort. The part that is difficult to convey is how gratifying it is when a seeming entropic body begins moving. It is thrilling.
  • The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.
  • Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.

In this case I am not sure if I am not more excited about my own jolt out of stasis or my neighborhood’s ‘inert uniformity’ of life patterns. Over the weekend I read the following quote and I felt it describes the current way of living for Americans. It is a kind of entropy or death.

If the pinnacle of life is a lifestyle centered on the single, private self, the glue is gone. We must bust that sophisticated specter of selfishness which haunts our houses, breeding a shrouded terror we do not want to face.

This was taken from a 2/2002 journal entry by Jules Dervaes of Path to Freedom as he was building his urban homestead with his family. This quote struck me because I know how separate I have sought to live in the past 30 years – half a lifetime. I rebelled against a small town's intrusiveness of my childhood. I felt it was imbued with bigotry and privilege. I loved the big Lebanese family I married into, but rejected the patriarchal tradition.

And, the irony is that I have taken pride in my defiance against the ‘machine’ that would have me be a compliant cog in the wheels. But, lo and behold this is exactly what is required by the ‘machine’ – to be the perfect, distracted consumer simply involved in my own head. Millions of us are no real threat to the powers that be. Unions used to be a force on behalf of workers. Neighborhoods with people interacting on their front stoops were a mini-culture of known preferences and personalities.

I am minutes away from more planting. This will be an ongoing theme this week . . .

Natasha Mayers "Building Bridges" bronze sculpture


As a fulfillment of Greenpa's request I am pleading with readers to go read his post on Hunger Compilation - And ACTION. Now. It isn't that long, but it is jam packed with facts you will not be reading anywhere else.

O103: Oaxacan activists visit local migrant workers

From my local paper, Edward Sifuentes wrote about these Oaxacan activists. I found it refreshing to see news of activists coming to hear the stories of American abusive treatment. In Myths America, my experience says that this new perspective doesn’t exist. But, again Myths America is busted.

I may be stretching fair use a bit, as there is not a thing I want to exclude from Mr. Sifuentes’ article. Reading it I felt very uninformed, except on a factual level. As with my home, the mobile home park community, there are three Spanish speaking households with whom I can’t communicate. I hope to take Spanish classes this next year as others in my park have done. Why Americans are not taught both throughout school years has baffled me for years. The Americas contain more Spanish speakers than English speakers. Oh yeah, white privilege again.

You will see from this article that the population estimate of 25,000 is high for the Oaxacan immigrants alone, not just all Mexican immigrants. Oaxacan activists Socorro Zurita Vazquez, left, and Centelia Maldonado spoke with fellow Oaxacans on Wednesday about the difficulties many face after coming north to find work.

Centelia Maldonado saw firsthand the toll that migrant work takes on a person.

Her father was a migrant farm worker most of his life and suffered many health problems later in life that she said stemmed from the often backbreaking work he performed.

Now, the 40-year-old activist from the impoverished Mexican state of Oaxaca said she wants to prevent her countrymen from having to migrate to the U.S. by helping create jobs at home.

Maldonado was one of a small group of activists from the impoverished state of Oaxaca that visited day labor sites and migrant camps in the Rancho Penasquitos area Wednesday.

She said the group wanted to see the migrants' living and working conditions to take back their experiences and help dispel some myths about migration.

When migrants return to their communities with American clothes, cars and money, people see the benefit of coming to the U.S., but they don't realize the dangers and hardships that migrants face, she said.

"We want to let people know the suffering people go through and to look for alternatives" to migration, Maldonado said.

At a day-labor site the group visited Wednesday afternoon, a group of about 30 men milled around under the hot sun waiting for a job. Ramiro Santiago, a 60-year-old Oaxacan man, said he had been waiting since about 6 a.m. without any luck.

"There's very little work," Santiago said.

The old man, who was leaning against a utility box wearing a dark baseball cap to protect his face against the sun's rays, said he's been in the country for three months. He said he gets work mowing lawns and pulling weeds for homeowners about two days a week.

Socorro Zurita Vazquez, one of the activists, said there is a better way for Oaxacans to make a living.

"Their sons are left behind and they come here to suffer," she said.

Vazquez said she hopes her visit will spark interest in a plan to create jobs at home by starting small companies that produce Oaxacan crafts, textiles and traditional food for export to the U.S.

"We may be poor in economic terms, but we are rich in culture and natural resources," Vazquez said.

Maldonado said her father began working as a migrant farmworker in northern Mexico and California when she was 2 years old. She said economic trade agreements and policies in Mexico that favor industrial farmers have forced people to search for work in the U.S.

"All these kids will be sent back to us when they are no longer able to work," Maldonado said looking at the group of predominantly young day laborers.

Oaxaca is one of the more economically depressed states in Mexico. It is inhabited predominantly by indigenous people, many of whom speak native Mexican languages and little Spanish.

Political turmoil, environmental devastation and economic problems have conspired to keep indigenous people largely undereducated and unable to continue their traditional farming way of life, said Jose Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Frente Indigena Binacional Oaxaqueno, the Oaxacan Indian rights group that organized the visit.

Oaxacan activists Jose Gonzalez, left, Bernardo Ramirez and Centelia Maldonado talk to a fellow Oaxacan at a day-laborer site in Rancho Bernardo on Wednesday. The Oaxacan activists toured migrant camps to gather information about the hardships many migrants face after crossing the U.S. border.

As many as 25,000 Oaxacan immigrants are estimated to live in North County, Gonzalez said.

In recent months, Oaxaca continues to simmer with protests and calls for the ouster of the state's governor, Ulises Ruiz, whom activists blame for political unrest and human rights abuses.

Oaxaca City was the site of sometimes-violent demonstrations in 2006, when protesters seized the city's center for months and accused the governor of electoral fraud. The federal government eventually sent in police to clear the city of protesters, and Ruiz remains in office.

The conflict began as a teachers' strike in May, 2006, but quickly mushroomed into a broad protest against centuries of social and economic injustices.

Contact staff writer Edward Sifuentes at esifuentes@nctimes.com.

WALDO NILO Staff Photographer

O102: Optimism, Opportunity

Well, just to show that I know how idiotic my last post is in the real world (though I hold out for science fiction), Al Gore is an old, rich, white, straight, christian man who is doing good work on a global level. Generalizations always bite people in the butt. Always.

Al Gore is again lifting me up with hope, if not joy. He makes smart and committed seem like something worthwhile again.

TED is the Technology Entertainment and Design group that has been around since 1984. Their website is worth browsing.

O101: Old White Men

This is one group of human beings I personally feel would be the best to sacrifice for a better tomorrow. I include a few more choice descriptors that I didn’t want to jam into a dinky title:
  1. rich
  2. christian
  3. straight

I don’t want to let the Pope off the hook or all those Rethuglican congress men – so the straight part refers more to all this gang who are intolerant of sexual orientation regardless if they are closeted.

This essay is based on that water element, intuitive feelings. I will not cite studies, sources, historic record or the words of those more recognized than my own. I am making an observation.

As a group, old white men have stolen more lives, good will, freedom, health, self-respect and wealth from all civilizations in millennia. Holding power and wealth over others seem the only requisites for the official old white man of government, church, military or boardroom.

Compare and contrast this with the rest of the world population, humans of all ages, genders and locale. In comparison this tiny shit stain of old white men in power, is a negligible number within the world population of human life, vital human life.

First and foremost in my mind are women. Women of all colors and income levels are where I start. Women bear children. Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and little girls throughout history have had to learn and do all things necessary to hold together families – especially when systems break down. Skill sets include securing food and feeding groups. Producing clothing and consumer goods for the creation of home fronts comes next. Care giving for all ages is next. (You know, the thing that women were burned as witches for doing by the old white men of the church). And the ability of women to work in a collaborative environment has been verified in studies within the social sciences for decades.

Transition challenge: Old white women from money are so very often just old white men without the genitals. It will be time to put up or shut the fuck up. Do you know fuck-all. old woman? Are you just sleep walking? Can you grow food, make clothing, generate power, build things with existing parts, care for the sick, produce medicines, teach or inspire? It isn’t that complex. Sorry. My rules.

Old white men not only can’t bear children, they aren’t needed to create children or satisfy women. They are nowhere in the equation. Remove Viagra from the world and they are forced to acknowledge that monumental lack. And old white men from great wealth are traditionally useless at caring for others or feeding and clothing anyone if a checkbook, credit card or paper money is not involved.

Speaking of children, children are as a group of humans along with women, represent the 90% of beings most affected by war in any land at any time. This is just a fact that said old white men in charge of these wars, blessing the sanctity of these wars, profiting from these wars or reporting these wars do not want publicized. But, it is true and it doesn’t take a google event to bump into rape, death, starvation and disfigurement in any given zone around the world where the US old white men have attacked in the name of ‘democracy.’ Fucking liars.

Around the world children are enslaved for Americans to have cheap stuff. In this country, the richest country on earth, children are starving, struggling and dying. And, oh yeah, millions of children were left behind on the destroyed educational system of this administration and the last. And sweet Jesus, American children are getting more and more dumbed-down, drugged, down-sized plus down and out. Declining intelligence, health, curiosity, opportunity, nutrition and sense of the natural world are obvious in pop culture and observing America’s children. We must reclaim and reanimate these young lives if the future is to be more than a sleeping, shambling, distracted yet volatile slave class.

To be clear, just one child is worth all the old white men in all of the American media circus. I am talking owners, ‘editors / journalists’ (have to be in quotes) and all levels of media. Please, pretty please, start with the old millionaire fucks in front of the cameras and planted in front of microphones. Gone – poof. Damn, just the image of the fresh air that could replace these flaccid old faces, voices is orgasmic. I refuse to even type the names of these vile pig Village pukes. They are without worth in any galaxy. No use whatsoever.

The vast majority of men of color from all over the world have most often been denied positions of power within the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the G8 and other positions representing the top tiny fraction of global power positions. Exceptions exist, but stay with me on this one. Men of color who make millions, play with the old white men rules and attitudes are really old white men with pigment. Dictators, Puppets, Preachers, a Supreme Court Judge or General here and there are all old white men with pigment. Sorry. My rules.

This majority of men of color around the world were the slaves of past centuries and continue to be. But first I want to speak to the thousands and thousands of men in Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and black sites all over the world. This is indeed the number one reason for the old white men in the White House to be tried as war criminals today. There is no excuse in the world that is good enough for why this has not been done yet.

Mexicans who have come into this country have been enslaved in countless situations in the workplace and most recently in the secret prison complex build since 2001 by this Administration. And, of course it isn’t just men as women and children are not protected in any way from the illegal activities of ICE, in the name of this corrupt US government. The new enemy to hate and fear for the racists in charge are the ‘illegal aliens.’ Every Mexican is painted with this label regardless of reality.

It is sad that the above was based on a similar thought process. The thought process is us and them. It only divides us. If we are to annihilate anyone, it should really be this tiny flaccid crew who have made everyone who is “Not Them” the enemy, the slave, the adjunct the lesser. This tiny mistake in humanity has with corruption, lies, murder and fortunes convinced millions that our enemies are: young, or female, or brown skinned, atheist / muslim and gay.

  • Old versus Young
  • Men versus Women
  • White versus ANY AND ALL COLOR
  • Rich versus EVERYONE ELSE
  • Straight versus EVERYONE ELSE

Fuck that. Let’s just get rid of them and listen to the young, to women, to people of color (be still white person), to humanity without bringing anyone’s religion or lack of religion into the discussion. And basic human rights mean that LGBTQ citizens are next in line. Time to pony up on basic human rights.

Of the people, by the people, for the people, mother fucker.

This is my new favorite curse word. If anyone has been most guilty of fucking mothers it is this poisonous crew of old-white-rich-christian-straight-men.

I am listening to you little Native American /Latino/African American/ Asian / Middle Eastern lesbian atheist from the rural areas. It is your turn, sister.

(I am very angry. I am going outside to dig in the dirt.)

Ironic Update: It seems one of my favorite bloggers, Greenpa of Little Blog in the Woods, has the same outrage I am experiencing. Unlike my post awash in emotion, he pulls in some real facts, and political action steps. I am grateful for this lovely old white man. I suspect he would agree with a great deal of my rant.

O100: Oral Communication, Blood Oranges and Oatmeal

When I returned from the farmer’s market on Sunday I read a great post by Bill McKibbon on the Common Dreams website about Joining. This quote hit me right in the smile gland,

For the rest of us, who aren’t planning to actually till the soil ourselves, relearning neighborliness means joining a CSA or going to the farmers’ market (where shoppers have ten times as many conversations per visit as they do at the Shop ‘n Save). [emphasis mine]

That is absolutely true. Even as I crossed the street I saw my favorite city council member and I was able to tell her my proposal. The council wants to name the week of May12-19 bicycle week. I told her, “The council should take a few thousand dollars and have a bike giveaway to launch the week.” I said, “You might even throw in the mother’s day aspect. It is an election year.” I was also able to talk to her about the blue ribbon environmental report being password protected on the city council website. She told me she would look at it and suggested I simply type, ‘password.’ I ended by making her laugh with my description of my own watching the city council meetings on my computer screen, watching the council members staring at their respective computer screens and my wish to be able to type her messages during the meeting. Good laughs and a wonderful feeling of having been able to speak with my elected official, the only one in government I feel can hear me.

I had a great exchange with the beekeepers about our shared past experiences with Phoenix and that town’s mad dash towards crisis with home building glut, hundreds and hundreds of golf courses, new water park, etc. Insanity and greed in the desert. My exchange with the top blood orange producer in these parts, Rainbow Farms, was about how this week their fruit will be center stage of my blog. The African brothers with the Sambusa taste treats got to hear all about my solar oven purchase. It was fun to see their bafflement at the concept. I am crazy about those kids. The couple with the bakery took my critique of the focaccia (too thin and over-cooked in the center) with graciousness. This warm couple are so wonderfully pleasant I find I want to purchase from them – even with my bread reduction / elimination intentions. I only had a few bucks to spend this week, so conversation was brief - comparatively.

About those blood oranges. I don’t have an adequate vocabulary for these succulent wonders. These babies are what oranges were meant to be. It is funny, I had never heard of a blood orange until I leaned about them from a Jordanian friend I met in (coincidentally) Phoenix. She told me how wonderfully sweet these were and how they were a favored fruit tree. Here I am years later eating them from trees growing a ten minute drive from here. I bought enough for an orange a day.

I want to talk about this Scottish company as a model to follow rather than advocated we purchase this product. I say this as a locavore, aiming to grow most of my own food one day.

But, the story I spotted this week at Inhabitat is an encouraging one, a real opportunity.

Here’s a breakfast that’s capable of not only fueling your body but also powering the entire factory that makes it. Scott’s Porage Oats, a Quaker Oats Factory at Uthrogle Mills in Scotland is installing a combined heat and power biomass boiler that will enable the factory to become carbon-neutral, running entirely on waste oat husks. [snip]

The $12 million boiler (about five times more expensive than the fossil-fuel model) will make this factory one of Scottland’s greenest. During the first three years, more than 1,300 MWhrs of renewable energy will be exported to the National Grid. Quaker also estimates that they will cut over 172,000 miles in transportation every year since the factory will no longer have to remove 21,150 tonnes of husks—reducing their emissions by another 600 tonnes a year.

Hot Tip – Organic and GMO hidden labeling revealed!

Livin’ la vida local is a blog I feel I have been searching for a long time. This young blogger is doing all kinds of leg work for me in finding organic, local, sustainable food sources in this area. She writes,

Did you know that you can tell whether produce is organic or genetically modified (GMO) simply by looking at the PLU (price look-up) code?[snip] I had remembered reading about this in Marion Nestle's "What to Eat" (review coming soon), but this post at Bon Appetit reminded me.

  • The PLU codes on fruit and vegetables contain four numbers (i.e., 4859).
  • If produce is organic, the PLU code is 5 numbers starting with a 9 (i.e., 94859).
  • If you see 5 numbers starting with an 8, (i.e., 84859), that means the fruit or vegetable is a GMO (a genetically-modified organism).

Flickr blood oranges

O99: Outside in the Garden

I suspect I will be posting lightly this week because the weather is perfect and planting is overdue. Please enjoy this Engineers Guide to Cats I found at Shakesville.

O98: Ocean –out of sight, out of mind

The element of water directs my attention to the Pacific Ocean. I have for some inexplicable reason been ignoring the ocean that lies less than a mile from my front door. Shameful. This week I rediscover the miracle at my doorstep that has been out of sight and out of mind for this plains-raised gal.

Last Friday I came across a Treehugger post and found a story that captivated me. I have heard about this problem of plastics becoming a monstrous floating mass in the ocean, but seeing these videos made it so much more profound.

I was enthralled by the nerdy, real life crew of this vessel. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean. Thomas Morton, the correspondent for VBS.tv was a hoot.

Before this trip, I was never all that crazy about the ocean. I’ve always appreciated the fact that it generates the majority of the world’s oxygen and keeps us nice and far from places like Britain, but in terms of any sort of awe or “respect” it just never happened. I would say I looked at it less as the primeval womb of all terrestrial life than as an excessive amount of water you sometimes have to fly over.

Part and parcel with this was my attitude toward the Pacific Garbage Patch, or as we willfully misidentified it for the duration of our journey, the elusive Garbage Island. All the journalism I’d read about the patch had carefully danced around physical descriptions of the trash, leading myself and the rest of the shooting crew to fanciful visions of a solid, Texas-size barge of discarded Coke bottles and sporting goods. The idea that people had managed to fuck up a part of the world that nobody even visits, much less inhabits, and on such a monumental scale struck me as interesting and, to be honest, slightly awesome-sounding, but at the end of the day the impact of the mess on the rest of the world failed to register. I mean, sure, sea birds choking to death on deflated balloons and sea turtles whose shells have been completely deformed by soda can rings (click here for a picture of this if you want to completely ruin your day)—all this definitely sucks, but so do a lot of things, you know?

Needless to say this whole journey ended up overturning my expectations about the Garbage Patch, as well as just about every misconception I’ve ever held about the sea, environmentalism, consumption, barfing, knots, pollution, humanity, and myself. After absorbing the myriad dangers of our plastic-heavy lifestyles for three weeks, I’m now a proud, carbon-conscious “Earth Warrior” who yells at grocery clerks for double-bagging my produce and carries around one of those 70s gunnysacks to drink out of. Just kidding, although the trip did lead me to ferret out a group of non-hippie environmentalists who you can read about here. I also finally got into Earth Crisis. Pretty decent.


Thank to Treehugger for this reporting.

N97: New Orleans = Vagina of America

Vagina Monologues author and activist, Eve Ensler, has had the pivotal role along with help from the Katrina Warriers in organizing this weekend’s 10th anniversary event against violence in New Orleans yesterday and today.
The Best of New Orleans blog post, Making Herstory writes,
For a decade, playwright and activist Eve Ensler has been using her continuously evolving work The Vagina Monologues to raise funds and awareness in a global effort to end violence against women. During a talk at the University of New Orleans last month, Ensler addressed her decision to hold "V to the Tenth," the 10th anniversary celebration of V-Day, her anti-violence initiative, in New Orleans. She had struggled, she said, to find the right symbolic link that would perfectly express her focus on the women affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Then it came to her.

'Duh," she said, "wetlands."

It's a glib but appropriate metaphor and the central point of one of her newest monologues. "New Orleans is the vagina of America," begins the piece, which casts New Orleans and the Gulf South in the role of the feminine in a culture that disrespects and underserves women; seductive and sustaining — and repeatedly abused.

Friday morning Democracy Now host Amy Goodman devoted the show, being broadcast from New Orleans to this V to the Tenth event. She interviewed spokeswomen from the Gulf Coast, Kenya, Congo and Iraq as well as replaying clips from Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda interviews. The video is impressive.

The Making Herstory, Gambit Weekly article continues,

Statistics consistently have borne out that following natural or man-made disasters, women suffer disproportionately, says Dale Standifer, director of the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Not the event itself but resulting burdens of stess and difficulty coping leads to increases in abuse of women. The frequency and intensity of sexual assaults and domestic violence increase.

In a cruel inverse ratio, the availability of services for women in need — from available childcare services to shelter beds — declines. The aftermath of Katrina affected women in shocking ways. Emergency medical services that were functioning had very few forensic nurses — the trained staff who deal with sexual assault victims and collect evidence for rape kits. Abusive partners were able to track down their victims through post-Katrina networks set up to help families and friends find one another. Victims of domestic abuse found themselves dependent on abusive spouses who signed up for FEMA benefits under the abusers' names.

In conflict zones, some Third World countries, and in nations where religion and cultural tradition incorporate misogyny into law and custom — like Taliban-controlled Afghanistan or West African countries that practice the female genital mutilation referred to as female circumcision — Ensler saw women becoming casualties as a matter of course. In post-Katrina New Orleans, she saw it on American soil.

'In any war, or any place where infrastructure falls apart, poverty increases, racism increases, abuse increases. And women are on the front lines," Ensler says.

Fonda made this point, that Eve’s little play has done more for the women of the US than the government. More money has been given because of this one woman than all of the federal government. That is an inspiration for us individual women (as well as a national shame).

Update: Shakespeare's Sister, Melissa McEwan, has written a compelling post specifically about the Congolese sexual terrorism. There is to be a Blog in Solidarity: Congo Rape Epidemic. She has links to some powerful testimony from one rape victim. Heartbreaking.

I will re-iterate, the Democracy Now program cited above has a Congolese woman who speaks passionately about this horror for the women of the Congo that the US government and the coroporate media is ignoring.

Update: One of the best summaries of the DRC conflict.

N96: Neat ! My Neighborhood Hero

I often daydream about becoming a Freeway Blogger myself. This guy has been an inspiration for some years now.

Thanks to Crooks & Liars

N95: Neighborhood Nostalgia

My childhood neighborhood had almost 30 kids on the block. That’s me dead center, tallest kid at 13. Truth be told, there were 3 older teenagers not present that day for the photo. We kids had abundant freedom and we had parades, parties, softball, adventures and big fights. Our neighborhood was at the edge of our small Iowa town of 7,000. We walked about 17 blocks to elementary school, half that to middle school and a mere 2 blocks to the high school. The grocery store backed up to our back yards off the main drag and I visited it every day one summer for a free lemon from the produce man.

There was a Maid-Rite that sold pork tenderloins twice the size of the bun in the heart of this pork producing country. The beginnings of the fast food monster world to come was a tiny A&W where a car hop brought the heavy glass mugs to our car on a metal tray that fastened to our partially rolled up window. On my very first date, Pat Kelly took me to Sam and Chuck’s for spaghetti with an iceberg lettuce salad on the side. The dressing was a deliciously oily, garlic blend so popular they bottled it to sell.

In the neighborhood photo you can see the town’s Drive-In Theatre directly behind the kid’s head beside me. A new movie was shown every two weeks, like the downtown movie theatre. When I was 9, another boy and I once hiked (1-2 miles?) one Saturday across the newly plowed field to the Drive In and played on the swings. On the way back it started raining and my shoes came off in the mud. We were so tired, cold and frightened that we thought we were in quicksand. That night it snowed and my shoes froze in the mud.

Our imaginations were vivid. It is sad that technology and television have affected children so profoundly today. Back then we moaned and groaned about being bored, but we sought our fun outside. There was no way I wanted to be inside with my Grandma or my parents. There was no ‘interaction’ or ‘play’ with the parental units – ever. Inside was boring. Now, the reverse seems to be true. Plus parents have so much anxiety about child safety that I suspect inside play becomes a default for monitoring reasons.

Within a couple summers of this neighborhood kid photo, I got my first job in the fields. I picked corn out of beans, weeds out of corn depending on the day and the field. I then spent several summers detassling corn. That work was incredibly grueling and I learned about pushing myself from the pre-dawn ride in the cattle truck to the afternoon stinging burn of sweating into razor-like cuts from the leaves. That was a tough way to make 90¢ an hour. Remember though, 90¢ went pretty far:
  • A burger was 15¢
  • Average Cost of new house $12,650.00
  • Average Income per year $5,807.00
  • Gas per Gallon 29¢
  • Average Cost of a new car $3,233.00
  • Loaf of bread 22¢

Late 50’s, early 60’s can seem bucolic compared to now. As kids we had incredible freedom to walk all over town. We went outside in the morning and barely checked back except to use the bathroom or eat lunch. But, the memory isn’t totally accurate. The fields behind our homes were planted with field corn rotated with soy beans. These were the birthing years of Agribusiness, an infant version of the behemoth it has become.

A familiar sight for kids playing was the plane swooping down over the crops and spraying pesticides. There was never any notice, no warnings or precautions that I can recall. I also remember picnics and Bar-B-Q outings when we slathered ourselves with smelly bug repellent and then dug into the food.

I want to be really candid besides being nostalgic. By the time I was old enough to articulate it, I realized it was an all-white, christian neighborhood of middle class privilege and narrow mindedness found all over this country. It is the kind of neighborhood politicians seem to hold aloft as the ubiquitous American dream. I hated the small town I grew up in and was very happy when we moved my senior year. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a landscape of physical trauma and denial. It gave me many happy memories and childhood adventure. But, even as a kid I saw the part we weren’t supposed to talk about even in our own homes. I remember overhearing my father at one of their cocktail parties saying, “We taught our girls to look out for the underdog, but I never thought they’d really do it.” I then heard the big roar of laughter for Doc who was so funny.

For me small town middle America isn’t what it is marketed to be. There was bigotry, small mindedness with deep psychological and emotional poverty and blight, but that should be another post. I am re-thinking all of my assumptions and experiences in light of what I am learning about my nation, myself and sustainability as a way of life.

N94: Nation of the Corporations, by the Corporations and for the Corporations

I lifted the title itself from a short post via Brilliant at Breakfast, describing this sorry excuse of a US Attorney General, Michael Mukasey’s justice department’s refusal to prosecute at least 50 businesses in the last 3 years.
Deferred prosecutions have become a favorite tool of the Bush administration. But some legal experts now wonder if the policy shift has led companies, in particular financial institutions now under investigation for their roles in the subprime mortgage debacle, to test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws.

Firms have readily agreed to the deferred prosecutions, said Vikramaditya S. Khanna, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has studied their use, because "clearly it avoids a bigger headache for them."

Some lawyers suggest that companies may be willing to take more risks because they know that, if they are caught, the chances of getting a deferred prosecution are good. "Some companies may bear the risk" of legally questionable business practices if they believe they can cut a deal to defer their prosecution indefinitely, Mr. Khanna said.

Legal experts say the tactic may have sent the wrong signal to corporations -- the promise, in effect, of a get-out-of-jail-free card. The growing use of deferred prosecutions also suggests one road map the Justice Department might follow in the subprime mortgage investigations.

Gee, ya think?

I trust that most readers are like me. My civics classes, my history books were filled with Myths America. I was educated with taxpayer’s money to believe that anti-trust, anti-fraud and environmental laws were passed and that our justice system meant something. You know, equal justice under the law. Silly me. Specifically, I don’t remember anything about the Fourteenth Amendment beyond what I might have learned by rote.

Ratified July 9, 1868 (140 years ago) this amendment was intended to secure the rights of slaves, newly emancipated post civil war. According to Wikipedia it was called the Reconstruction Amendment. It begins with this commanding paragraph. . .

“ Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I know for a fact I was not taught the following information about the Fourteenth Amendment and corporations.

Very soon after the Fourteenth Amendment became law, the Supreme Court began to demolish it as a protection for blacks, and to develop it as a protection for corporations. However, in 1877, a Supreme Court decision (Munn v. Illinois) approved state laws regulating the prices charged to farmers for the use of grain elevators. The grain elevator company argued it was a person being deprived of property, thus violating the Fourteenth Amendment's declaration "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." The Supreme Court disagreed, saying that grain elevators were not simply private property but were invested with "a public interest" and so could be regulated.

One year after that decision, the American Bar Association, organized by lawyers accustomed to serving the wealthy, began a national campaign of education to reverse the Court decision. Its presidents said, at different times: "If trusts are a defensive weapon of property interests against the communistic trend, they are desirable." And: "Monopoly is often a necessity and an advantage."

By 1886, they succeeded. State legislatures, under the pressure of aroused farmers, had passed laws to regulate the rates charged farmers by the railroads. The Supreme Court that year (Wabash v. Illinois) said states could not do this, that this was an intrusion on federal power. That year alone, the Court did away with 230 state laws that had been passed to regulate corporations. [emphasis mine]

By this time the Supreme Court had accepted the argument that corporations were "persons" and their money was property protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Supposedly, the Amendment had been passed to protect Negro rights, but of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations. [emphasis mine]

The above and this excerpt below are from Howard Zinn’s Robber Barons and Rebels.

When Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, ran for President in 1884, the general impression in the country was that he opposed the power of monopolies and corporations, and that the Republican party, whose candidate was James Blaine, stood for the wealthy. But when Cleveland defeated Blaine, Jay Gould wired him: "I feel ... that the vast business interests of the country will be entirely safe in your hands." And he was right.
One of Cleveland's chief advisers was William Whitney, a millionaire and corporation lawyer, who married into the Standard Oil fortune and was appointed Secretary of the Navy by Cleveland. He immediately set about to create a "steel navy," buying the steel at artificially high prices from Carnegie's plants. Cleveland himself assured industrialists that his election should not frighten them.

Lest we think electing a Democrat would have made much of a difference then (as with the current political climate), I cite the Democratic President Grover Cleveland,

"No harm shall come to any business interest as the result of administrative policy so long as I am President ... a transfer of executive control from one party to another does not mean any serious disturbance of existing conditions."

That could easily be Clinton or Obama. Bet on it.

One of the best videos I have watched in the last four years is “The Corporation.” If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out the trailer here. It was profoundly moving for me. It doesn’t mean I won’t give the election a go. I’ll vote, but the reasons to do so are dwindling. I feel I am largely going through the motions. The corporations have always been around and they now have surpassed most all world governments. I will continue to make noise and to work at mastering my own life.

N93: Newsletter

I am almost finished with my third newsletter, not a bit like this one, for my little community. Publishing every two weeks is what I am shooting for this spring. The reason I want to write so many is to keep excitement high with the community garden effort. The first newsletter simply introduced the community garden idea and invited all the residents to a weekend kick-off. We had food and drink, a composting / wormery demonstration and all the seeds purchased and donated were laid out for all to see and talk about.

Two weeks later I wrote about community art projects. This was last week and I wrote about it here at make-a-(green) plan. It is a sort of logical progression from blog to newsletter, yet I need to take care as the worlds are two separate spheres. For one thing, there are very real privacy issues for myself and my neighbors that preclude revealing too many particulars. I will need to remain vague when describing my community.

It works the other way too. Despite the fact I have given out the blog URL to several neighbors, I realize this removes the anonymity that can be a truly freeing aspect of writing in this venue. As I wrote Tuesday, I am not a fan of the self-censorship I was raised to practice. Also, in my blog I can make value and taste judgments about the little personal world around me. In real life it is best to shut the fuck up.

Case in point . . . I was measuring the public area the other day and a retired neighbor helped me by holding the measuring tape. While jotting down dimensions around the swimming pool I commented about a plastic bin holder, “This is really an ugly piece of crap.” The woman said, “I like it.” She proceeded to tell me how she uses it to place her book, etc. when she is at the pool. I realized later she may have been the one who ‘generously donated’ this dollar store detritus. I call it that because it clearly was originally a knock off version of a storage caddy with plastic drawer bins in a base with extruded guides. It was not made to last. Trust me – U.G.L.Y. Hey, I am constantly balancing design values (snobbery?) and waste concepts in decisions myself. What’s a woman to do?

This third newsletter, Mid-April edition, is complete except for some photos the manager took. I am waiting for her husband to email them to me. (Observation: So many women seem to find these steps to download and email something that requires a penis. It means I don’t get nearly enough photographs from female friends and family as I'd like). I asked her Tuesday to climb up on the pool shed and take a picture of the garden from above. I thought it would be great to have a ‘BEFORE’ picture. I am so happy that the manager is both spry and enthusiastic. She is a positive force of nature and that kind of cheerful resolve makes all of this community activity achievable. I title one regular column, Manager’s 2¢ for her to be a part of each issue.

One of the tasks I completed yesterday was a spreadsheet of all of the seeds donated. I included the back of the package information about depth of planting, spacing, germination, growing time, sizes and other comments. I thought it would help to have a record of this for future and a handy guide for this coming weekend’s planting.

Another opportunity I am taking in writing the newsletter is to use the newsletter to announce the upcoming Earth Day, then Arbor Day. These are great segues to raise awareness of sustainability and living green. I am attempting to routinely add quotes and images worth talking about amongst ourselves and outside this community.

I believe our residents should be in every issue via personal notes / photographs or simply mentioned in park news, like last week’s council meeting where 3 of us spoke or the 9 of us who worked to spread topsoil and manure in the gardens. In this upcoming issue I included an adorably sexy picture of my next door neighbor (not this one). He has volunteered so much of himself because in his work as arborist he has an inside track on soils, pots, plants, tools, trucks, etc. He is our official Worm Wrangler so I captioned his photo that way. I know he will blush and grin at that.

So far I have found that almost half of the residents have email, so I can distribute a .pdf via a group email. The board secretary has agreed to print a color copy for me to keep as a record and another for me to post in the community laundry room. Another resident last newsletter volunteered to pay for color copies for the residents who don’t have email.

Each issue so far has had a mention of the resident who has lived here the longest and is the president of the residents’ association board. She goes to all the city council meetings and knows the community and this park better than anyone it seems. Besides, I think respect is a given with our elders. US popular culture has denigrated the elderly whereas, in my opinion, they just might be able to help us all figure out how to live in a post-oil world.

Last but not least, the newsletter has been so appreciated and praised; I am encouraged to keep it up. I wrote the other day,
We want to be loved, accepted, respected, safe, productive, happy, secure, understood, confident, trusted, amused, conscious, perceptive, healthy, positive and smart.

So, besides simply being flattered I can also help pull this off in my tiny pocket of the California biosphere.