U139: Unnatural

You are born, you live your life, you grow old and you die. That is the rhythm we expect to play out for ourselves and our children. Wars, murders, disease, accidents and suicide all steal life away unnaturally.

6,960 days ago my daughter committed suicide. She was nineteen. Nineteen years later I still feel the aching hole she left in my being.

Angel, I still think of you each and every day. You were a gift in my life and I miss you deeply. There were several wonderful stages of living you missed.

It is a grey day here in paradise, but I will get through it. I have for 6,960 days.

Update: Sunday I received a text message from my son. He is visiting my mom (his Granny), his dad, step mom, sisters and brother and all the extended families in Omaha. Put some of ur colors on Angels grave. luv U i will text u when i land. I am staying at gina's 2 night.

*blub* The reference to my colors is rainbow colors. He calls me fruit loops because of my love of rainbow colors.

U138: Unplanned

Despite my tendency to plan, ah - make-a-(green)plan, this week is turning out to be an unplanned frenzy of activity, preparation, bonding and responsibilities. It started Sunday night when I was writing our park newsletter and I realized it was the 2 year anniversary of our young manager couple. They have been a force of nature in bringing about change in this mobile home park and I wanted to acknowledge them in some public way.

I contacted one of the park veteran residents and tossed out the idea of an informal gathering by the pool, under the pine trees on May 31st to toast the couple at sunset. I sensed his reaction was going for the complicated planning model of BBQ menu planning - ah . . . visions of paper products. I am thinking some drinks and a few nibbles. I talked up simple, spontaneous - no costs, etc. By late afternoon on Monday he called and asked me to go pick up one of those giant greeting cards for everyone to sign. I made agreement noises into the phone and decided on another plan of action. Note: We also adjusted schedule to May 30th so managers would be available.

We had a big picture frame donated anonymously some weeks ago. I have been puzzled about best use for this oversized frame. It then came to me that it would be perfect for a collage of all of the homes in our park. Unplanned leap into the project on Monday meant grabbing another neighbor and tearing around the park snapping photographs. Along the way we found a tenant needing a photo of her refrigerator and help putting it on Craig's List. I advised another neighbor in a fence design we are all excited about building. It was a full day of interactions and tasks.

Remember, I am the hermit who has reluctantly pushed myself out into the community - for my own good. I am pretty good at this and that has always been a bit baffling to me. Why is it so easy for me to be gregarious and act as a facilitator when my heart and soul long for solitude? It has never made much rational sense, so I must arbitrarily push myself into community and also close myself off regularly.

After about 9 hours of designing on AutoCAD the collage of 40 pictures, interacting with people to let them know of the secret plans (with a cover story of a going away party for another), photographing every home, getting photos transferred into my system, formatting / cropping each to 2.5 x 4.5 and creating a .pdf for printing . . . I was done for a day.

Then my co-planner had major printer problems that took several days to get me finished pictures. All day yesterday meant my hanging around searching for neighbors before work, at lunch breaks, coming home from work and a few early this morning. I finally have a majority of the photos signed on the photograph faces. Now I just need to decoupage them to the poster board and mount this to the frame before this evening. No problem. Oh yes, I also want to design a salutation to attach to the collage - by floating the letters in front. I promise I will photograph this for the blog.

Unplanned, but massive time allocated to this endeavor. Again, the interactions with the community and my closest neighbors are the biggest chunk of my time and I have learned a great deal of wonderful things, the underpinnings to people's lives. I understand the kind of forces being addressed within different people's lives around me.

Last, but not least is the unplanned time I have spent with my son's cat. Yes, I am cat sitting with my son's big, gorgeous black cat Taz. Taz used to live with me, so we are very close. I hadn't planned on being the caretaker while my son was visiting family in Nebraska, but he asked me the day before he left. The first night I'd come by in the evening to feed the cat and didn't check back until noon the next day.

Poor thing was so frantic he'd thrown up a few places. I was so unhappy to have left him to himself. I decided I needed to hang out and reassure him. So, after doing some early afternoon errands I looked in a few times and by evening I was there for the night. Taz was on my lap and hung with me all night long. I need to get over there again and just hang out while I assemble this project. I am not really a pet person, but Taz has my heart. He is an old friend.

One full week filled with unplanned loving and sharing. Good for the soul, bad for the do list. It will work out.

U137: Uncomfortable

During this past 5 months of my own challenge to live a more sustainable life, I let go of some addictions, habits and attitudes. I stopped buying any paper products, magazines or most all food with packaging. I have reduced gasoline, electrical and water use. Some of these changes were, like the paper use, easy to give up. Other things are not easy.

When I quit smoking 5 years ago I made this realization. My biggest trigger was being uncomfortable. Be it feelings of stress or anxiety or getting too hungry or being too cold or hot, tired etc. My cigarette addiction had lasted almost 40 years and I’d worked up to almost 3 packs a day. Smoking was my form of self-medication when I was uncomfortable. Now as addictions work, I used tobacco when I was feeling great too. Anything can become a justification. But, the thought of quitting a habit brings a dread, if not fear, of being uncomfortable.

This has been true throughout my life when I gave up beer, coffee, sex, marijuana, diet pills, cheetos, television and meat. Even though some of these things I allow back in and then some out of my life again, I am reassured by this realization that after an initial period of being uncomfortable – it passes. The greater truth is that there is a real freedom in being flexible. Whenever I conquer my fear of discomfort, I am free.

Right now my challenge feels like a dress rehearsal. Don’t get me wrong, I take it seriously. I am earnest and work towards consistency and conscientiousness. I have made allowances, like eating meat when I go to my son’s restaurant. Meanwhile, I know that there is a growing urgency to act now on all fronts with all people and not wait for the forced reductions to come. But, we who have had this dress rehearsal will be better able to anticipate post-oil living over those who know it only as an intellectual exercise.

Myths America includes the terrible horrors of withdrawal from some of the above addictions. There are chemical issues, mental issues and socialization problems we are told and we dare not take these on without professional help or supportive products or groups. All of these things seem to work in concert. In my own humble opinion, that approach has manipulated us, to make us all fear giving up things (economic threat). In hushed tones of concern we are told to take it easy and not try to do too much, too quickly, too soon or all at the same time. Most all of that in my life has been bullshit. It is a way to keep one using, buying and fearing. This is a great state of being for market interests, insurance companies and the status quo. It is also less threatening to those not ready to make a change yet.

Today I am calling bullshit on fears of being uncomfortable for another reason. There are millions upon millions of people around the world who would adore our discomforts as a giant step up from the real pain and comfortless life. In light of those realities, we are chastened to ignore / excuse / rationalize; I can’t defend my own reluctance to take on my next challenges.

Chains image

U136: USA, Are you getting this?

If I were a terrorist . . .

U135: Unfinished or Stacked = the Look

In preparation for the Keystone Cox, I completely cleared my desk area to clean thoroughly around my CPU, cords, monitor and peripherals. I decided it was also a great opportunity to examine all the items from this zone for things to purge. Well, I got sidetracked and the stacks of things are all still piled high on my table.

So, imagine my surprise when I see Michael Cannell’s post at the Dwell blog pointing out what might be a new design trend. Stacked objects.

Are stacked objects a design trend?

One of the most photographed works at the Milan Furniture Fair last month was a tower of drawers (below), by Shay Alkalay, a young Israeli designer.

I noticed the inkling of a pattern when Marc Sadler installed a series of undulating stacks of lit shades (above) at the Republic of Fritz Hansen showroom in SoHo during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair this weekend.

So why stacked? Here’s my theory: one of the current themes is for designers is to produce objects that could be considered works in progress, as if passing them off for completion to somebody else. Both of the stacks shown here conform to that idea by suggesting unfinished assemblage, like children’s blocks piled haphazardly.

That works for me. I wouldn’t want to rush my great work of sorting, cleaning, purging would I?

Update: I realized this theme of unfinished sorting and the stacking is something I have actually been thinking about for some time and hadn’t made the connections until I posted this short piece. This picture captivated me a couple years ago. I liked the frugal idea of being able to store a great many disparate things in a unified way without needing to purchase storage systems. The orange boxes could be any small boxes all painted to match. Using the ties just give the concept a real panache. I even marveled at how pottery might be better utilized for food storage (adapted with cork closers and discrete labels on the back) while keeping the look of a collection intact. Just one wall could thereby be transformed into massive storage for a urban dweller or those of us with tiny homes.

While my internet was down the past few days I worked on a plan for the second half of this year, approaching rapidly. Besides devoting my Wednesday post to the subject of local food, I want to incorporate a purge day every Monday for the last half of the year. This evolved from my review of my initial posts about the categories of things I needed to purge. There happened to be 26 categories, so I did a few name changes to follow my alphabetical format for this list.

Appliances 7/7
Bed Linens & Curtains7/14
Cleaning Supplies 7/21
DVD’s, Music 7/28
Equipment 8/4
Furniture Purging 8/11
Garden Tools & Materials 8/18
Hobby & Craft Stuff 8/25
Interior Décor Items and Plants 9/1
Jewelry, Shoes, Purses & Bags 9/8
Kitchen Linens: Napkins, Placemats Towels & Cloths 9/15
Lighting 9/22
Magazines and Books 9/29
Nails, Screws, Manual Tools & Fasteners 10/6
Office Supplies 10/13
Power Tools 10/20
Qualms about Framed Pictures & Photos 10/27
Records: Receipts, Files & Tax 11/3
Sewing Machine, Fabric & Sewing Box 11/10
Toiletries, Medicine, Cosmetics & Hair Products 11/17
Utensils, Dishes, Glasses, Cups & Flatware 11/24
Varied Materials : Wood, Stone, Cork, Hardware, etc. 12/1
Wardrobe 12/8
X-tra - Food Pantry 12/15
Yet more Bakeware, Pans 12/22
Zillion Bits of Paint, Plaster, etc. 12/29

I decided that even if I got antsy and purged any category prior to the date for posting, I would keep before and after photos for the sake of discussion. I will be checking back on Chile's Cut the Crap for tips I might use. Between now and the Summer Solstice I plan to Spring Clean and to fix things long put off. This will stretch to 4th of July if I get behind.

U134: Unfuckingbelievable

I chose not to buy the modem the Cox Cable repairman hooked up to my computer last Friday. Yes, it seemed to make everything work better, but it was $80 and that was just too high. It was especially pricey if I find I can go wireless and no longer need a modem. The repairman came three different times between Thursday and Friday last week. It was tough to have him take away the new modem and leave me without internet access for a long holiday weekend. But, I chided myself about all of my goals of freedom from dependence.

Then, on Saturday I took on a project that meant I was roaming all over this mobile home park taking pictures outside each place. I will be writing about that process too. But, what is important is that I started hearing from my neighbors who were all complaining about their internet service. Several had put it together and realized there were about a dozen of us in this one park who had Cox Cable repairmen coming to our separate homes all within the same several days. Like my repairman, many made multiple visits.

Keystone Cox, my new name for them. What is the point of having a mega database if there is nothing that flags a dispatcher or supervisor that a dozen trucks are converging on a 1.6 acre area?

For the record, in case there are those too young to remember the Keystone Cops reference:
The term has since come to be used to criticize any group for its mistakes, particularly if the mistakes happened after a great deal of energy and activity, or if there was a lack of coordination among the members of the group.

To continue, on Monday, Cox sent several big trucks with higher up technical repairmen. Some main feed was changed at the corner of the property. All is well and I didn’t have to spend $80. Unfuckingbelievable.

T133: Trolls

The trash talk earlier this week made me think of trolls on the internet. Happily I haven’t encountered any troll comments on my blog or or many heinous troll comments the sustainability blogs I visit. This may just be because they are not big or are well monitored. But, I suspect it might be that this trollish element isn’t that interested (so many white women talking about home and children, a fundamentalist’s dream come true). It may also be they have not been recruited. Progressive blogs sometimes feel like swarms of trolls are directed towards certain topics or attitudes – gay marriage, feminism, etc.

The trolls I have spotted tend to be ‘concern’ trolls. The comment may have the wording of aggreement, but the intent is to negate or refute by being 'helpful'. I have seen and read various insights into trolls, their methods and how to deal with them. I'd planned to share several today. The Cox Internet technician came today for the second time and still will need to come again. It's a puzzle. Since my internet connection is on the fritz, I have to abbreviate what I’d planned. I might be able to come back later. We shall see.

This advice via Atrios struck me as true.
I cannot make anyone stop responding to pointless or nuisance comments. You have to want to restrain yourself, because you understand that the only way to get rid of them is to fail to give them the attention they want. A "troll" is not just someone whose comments you disagree with, or even just a nasty or badly-worded comment. A troll is someone who does not, under any possible set of circumstances, care what you think about him or his comments. He merely wants attention. Negative attention will do. The more you disagree with him, the more he is able to tell himself that he is persecuted and victimized or the only voice of reason or one of the elite few who has the God's-eye view of the world or whatever his current delusion is. If he isn't merely a narcissist who thrives on feeling attacked, he's just some putz who enjoys irritating other people. Therefore, you "feed" the troll by paying any attention to him at all. It does not matter what you say in response. Any response to a troll just encourages the troll.

Besides classic trolls, we have a few resident long-winded bores who believe that the rest of us have never been exposed to some trite, shallow, bombastic rant they just heard on the radio or read in Reader's Digest or saw in a vision, and feel compelled to share with the rest of us. These people lack any possible sense of context or audience; they are incapable of noticing that the bulk of our commenting community has been exposed to the world for a while now and is not interested in any comment that starts "there is one simple answer to this the rest of you aren't getting." It does you no good to respond to this type either; they'll just re-write the same comment again, at the same length, saying the same thing, until you "get it." They are bores with no self-awareness. The cool thing about the internet is that you can just scroll down to the next comment without being "rude." So take advantage of the medium.

Internet Troll Image

T132: Trashing Costs and Consumerism

tr.v. trashed, trash•ing, trash•es Slang

  1. To dispose of; throw away; discard:
  2. To subject to scathing criticism
Television, telephone, and truck are all essential to my life – or so I used to think. They are now part of the trash heap of my past way of life. I am disposing of these three things, getting rid of these costs. Well, that’s not entirely true as I have adapted my ways to utilize all of these in a different way, with a lighter footprint and my primary search for frugal alternatives. But, I intend to ‘trash’ them insofar as I intend to be critical of dependencies, fads, addictions and my own non-conscious use. These are all pivotal elements of connection or entrée to a consumer lifestyle.

Truck – Pony Boy is my cool little 1994 Nissan truck I’ve had for 11 years. I was going to make it an Art Car and even wrote about it in make-a-(green)plan.

But I procrastinated. And then I stewed and fretted if I really needed a car besides having to pay several hundred dollars for registration renewal, insurance, AAA, new radiator and a tune up. I drive so little it seems a big expense for so little. The last two years I put off servicing and maintenance to lower my expenses. Even so the annual costs including gas were around $600. Am I trashing driving? Yes, I am. In my semi-retired life I should be critical of my own dependency on my truck because I am within walking and biking distance of most everything I need. It is simply my sedentary ways (at present) that keep me driving everywhere.
  • I am going to give over ownership of my truck to my son, whose car needs too much repair. It is no longer a part of my life in a significant way. I know that I can use it if I need to, but it is no longer my responsibility. And, just out of respect that I am not paying costs, I hope to avoid borrowing. This would help me increase my fitness.
Television Service– I’m just shy of a full 10 years on the dark side, my expression for getting digital cable. Since the summer of 1998 when my back went out for several weeks, I slowly turned into a zombie, even leaving the television on all night for white noise. In my prior life I’d read a novel a week and wouldn’t have dreamed of having a television in my bedroom or left on all night. But, over this last decade I went from digital cable to satellite television. My television service cost me approximately $600 last year.
  • But, it has now been two months since I suspended service. In truth I have used the internet to watch Lost, the ABC series I’d never followed and several other television shows now available online without commercials. I have been outside more and I don’t have Air America radio on during the day. It is really about withdrawing from the accustomed habit of background noise. Period. As with most addictions, the idea of stopping was probably much worse than the reality.
  • I suspect it will only be a matter of time before this online streaming won’t be free (or free of commercials).
Television Sets – I have two television sets that I would like to pass along. One was given to me by a neighbor and it supposedly has a DVD player and VCR built into it. Sadly, the DVD player doesn’t work on newer DVD’s. I received a free DVD player from a neighbor on Sunday, so I don’t see a reason to keep the big set in my little house. The truth is it reminds me of my zombie life and it annoys me. The shed has a small Motorola I used in Arizona for my office / bedroom. In addition to these sets there are the two DirecTV converter boxes and remote controls. Oy. These are not costs, but they are trashy – as far as symbols.
  • I think Freecycle is the place for these. Analog sets days are numbered anyway. And that will be an e-waste nightmare.
Telephone – I gave up my land line telephone and service 6 years ago when it made more sense to have a cell phone alone. At the time I worked within a building where Verizon’s signal worked best. And at the end of last year I let Working Assets special offer buy out that Verizon contract. I am a big fan of Working Assets, now called Credo. I had their long distance service for a decade until I switched to the Verizon mobile phone. So much money! Last year I spent around $600 for phone service. Although my monthly fee is less with Credo, last month I only used the cell phone for 42 minutes of the 200 minutes available.
In his most recent exhibition, Running the Numbers, Jordan looks at contemporary American culture through “the austere lens of statistics.” Each image notes a staggering statistic, and portrays a large quantity of something (i.e. 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day). The image makes the statistic real, almost impressionistic in style, as it appears simple or monotone from afar but detailed up close (see the zoomed images of [. . .] cell phones below). “The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming,” he says. This link takes you to Photographic project by Chris Jordan. I particularly liked Chris Jordan's mind boggling images of our cell phone and water bottle waste, done with an artist's eye.

The thing that really nags at me is the knowledge that these products are made with tantalum. This link details this sad saga of what goes into our technology products.
The demand for cell phones and computer chips is helping fuel a bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [skip] Columbite-tantalite - coltan for short - one of the world's most sought-after materials. Refine coltan and you get a highly heat-resistant metal powder called tantalum. It sells for $100 a pound, and it's becoming increasingly vital to modern life. For the high-tech industry, tantalum is magic dust, a key component in everything from mobile phones made by Nokia (NOK) and Ericsson and computer chips from Intel (INTC) to Sony (SNE) stereos and VCRs.
  • My alternatives? This week I am looking at using Skype or some other free service and giving my neighbor my cell phone. I have about a month before she moves, which is when she needs a mobile phone. This research seems like it might benefit a lot of us who use a computer regularly. Stay tuned.

Contemporary life in America means the ubiquitous telephone, television and transportation vehicle for every adult. I am going to put that concept to the test, or at minimum I will not accept the telecom corporations holding me in ransom for services. Millions of us have been doing around the world. I've just grabbed the next number.

Speaking of next . . . What is next? Teh Toobz – I will not be giving up the use of teh toobz (see video below for a modified reminder of Sen. Ted Stevens displayed ignorance in fighting Net Neutrality a couple of years ago).

My own broadband internet account costs me around $600 a year, but last year it was paid entirely by several neighbors who each paid me about $15/month to utilize my wireless signal. They have had some problems, with one dropping out and the other two cranky about reception problems. I have had an IT guy check everything out at my computer and we can’t figure it out. To top it off, today I can barely get through and I only had intermittent connection yesterday. This is why I don't have pictures today. So this will not be a sustainable system.

Yet this weekend, some other neighbors were talking about utilizing wireless internet for all of the people in the park. One internet customer’s broadband is paid for by an employer. If we can place his signal where the other 20 or more of us can receive it with our wireless cards, we will be set.

This will be an ongoing project. But I am thrilled that I could save about $150 a month and $1,800/year with the elimination of my current truck, telephone and television expenses. The energy savings from no television is another calculation and something to shared. I am thrilled that I have begun this process and I'm convinced my fears of withdrawal were overrated. Baby steps back to a simpler life.

This may be my last posting or one of infrequent postings until I can figure out what is going on with my connections to the internet.

T131: Trashion

The thing is, I am not a consumer and I may only be guessing, but I believe there are many millions of people who don’t realize the limitless potential of re-purposing trash. So for those who are compelled to buy – during this time of transition – there is at least this refreshing alternative to using any more natural resources.

Re-purposing, local artists and millions upon millions of ideas, trash items and stuff. I snagged many of these images from Inhabitat a website rich in sustainable design ideas. I have referenced this website before and I am especially excited about their participation in international designs that function for the many, rather than simply for the wealthy few. The Hippo Bottle and Glasses for Global Poor were an examples of this.

I still believe that eliminating the consumer addiction is the ultimate direction. But it took a century to get us this brainwashed as a nation into this mess. It will need some real re-education to manipulate the sheeple away from destructive consumerism; euphemistically labeled progress. Speaking of labels, this designer jacket is exclusively labels.

For me, there is the delicious irony of glossy design magazine pages used to create three different products from three different designers. And an additional irony is trash basket made from trash.

Computer or typewriter keys have always captivated me as objects. And using phone card punch outs – or even credit cards could be a great protest jewelry in this transition time – revolutionary time.

And what about honoring books in our lives by using them as the designer has done here?

Not one of these ideas couldn’t be ‘borrowed’ for a Do It Yourself project for gift giving or barter or simply for oneself. Maybe the label jacket is a stretch for most of us, but the concept is a good one.
So, before you give away those clothes, check the label – it might be useful.

Mana Collections necklaces

Update:I want to bring a brilliant comment into the body of this post, because it shouldn't be overlooked. Commenter Rosa writes,

I have this half-thought-out theory that about 50 years of modern art and craft-as-art (say starting with Pop Art) have been about dealing with the overwhelming plenty of industrial consumerism, and we are starting to see the beginning of post-plenty art.

Just like cooking by looking at what is available and making something delicious out of it, this art of looking at what is there and transforming it through skill, instead of thinking of something and finding the resources to make it, isn't so much a technique as a world view.

But it's a really important shift.

If Rosa would develop this I would guest post it. This is indeed a shift in perspective.

T131: Trash Talk

trash talk

n.Disparaging, often insulting or vulgar speech about another person or group.

trash-talked, trash-talk·ing, trash-talks

intr.v. To speak disparagingly, often insultingly or abusively about a person or group.

What united millions after another lost (stolen?) election in 2004 was trash talking about George Bush. After the near worshipful and fear-based strictures against criticism of the pResident – the first mocking put downs were a wonderful relief. And with the monstrous disappointment of that election, fury was unleashed.

And indignation became addictive. We should have all been prepared for that after observing the decades of hate radio from the right. It is a sad and sorry thing to have this indignation addiction. I am katecontinued and I am indignant . . . perpetually.

But, it grows old. Randy Rhodes on Air America was the first trash talker posing as a progressive voice to piss me off. I simply stopped listening to her. But the list kept growing and growing. This last 5 months I am sick to death of the ugly misogynist slurs against Hilary Clinton and the racist, anti-Muslim hatred against Barack Obama. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has been cataloging these hits. As of today there are 94 on the Hillary sexism watch .

These are a few highlights bulleted by Sadly No:

Melissa also writes:

I mean, how great has it worked out for conservatives that the reality-based community has failed utterly to perceive a comprehensive reality about either of its remaining candidates, not to mention cast aside all that rigorous adherence to fairness, accuracy, and cynicism about the media and rightwing frames on which the leftwing blogosphere was ostensibly built?

Maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t have been so quick to stomp the shit out of her, or slay the golden calf for him—and hand to conservatives the perfect opportunity to make us look like we got it backwards, even if we didn’t.

We’re going to go into the general election with what looks to be a weak candidate either way, when we had the chance for the total opposite. And that won’t be Barack Obama’s fault, and it damn sure won’t be Hillary’s, no matter how many of the numbskulls who got us here try to blame her for their own idiocy.

I haven’t followed much of this horse race as I worked since last year to turn away from the political race to concentrate on the real life, grass roots work of living a sustainable life. But, I did read enough to know that Obama’s supporters became pretty crazed. I remember this group energy from the Daily Kos. This blog was another fauxgressive (Melissa McEwan’s word) site that has swarmed and attacked opposing opinions for some years now. But, lately I have been reading more of the attacks from the media, from Clinton supporters and GOP against Obama. Melissa’s survey of these attacks against Obama I noticed in April that she titled, Shakesville Doesn’t Cover Campaign Racism, where she lists almost 40 links “to get you started.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like snark and I read a couple sites with snarky humor. But, lately the misogyny and ugliness about women is getting too difficult to witness. This has been an ongoing struggle within my life. Laughter can be cruel and a weapon. I have been guilty of crossing lines. I am not proud of this. But the more conscious I become, the more difficult I find it to show disrespect in this way. And when I do, I am quicker to own up to this. It is not okay.

The number one weapon to shut women up is to say, “You have no sense of humor, I was just kidding.” Absolute bullshit, it’s talking trash. It all comes back to respect – or not.
Update: I just read something by Melissa McEwan that made me realize I hadn't differentiated between indignation and anger, directed anger. Let me quote from this short but but vital Feminism 101: On Anger post:

Progress is dependent on people who get angry, because anger—productive anger, motivating anger, directed anger, rational anger—is the root of all progress.

Feminists/womanists and their allies know that change comes by virtue of anger.

Progress ain't fueled by rainbows and gumdrops.

If you're not angry, you're probably not helping.

That is all.

T130: Trashed Food

A blog from the writers in Ithaca (home of my alma mater) is called Groovy Green. My theme of trash comes up in their piece today on food waste where they ask and answer:

How much food does the average American family waste in edible food each month?

122 lbs.

That’s how much enters the waste stream each month from the average American home (family of four). Ridiculous, sad, and incredible at the same time, isn’t it? A study conducted in 1995 estimated that 96.4 billion pounds of edible food was wasted each year — not to mention all of that probably went straight into the landfill. Imagine the recycled compost that could be generated from that!

The fascinating graphical representation of our monthly waste, as created by the NY Times, is shown below. Click on it to be taken to a much higher res, readable version.

T129: Trash Dummy

It is as though the raw materials are dug out of one hole in the ground--a mine or an oil well--only to be transferred to another hole in the ground--a landfill--with a very short stop at my house in between. Indeed, in 2006, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 28% of our municipal waste, by weight, was packaging and containers. No Impact Man

I just loved that succinct way of describing trash. This is really dumb. Today I felt inspired to follow through on an idea I had a while ago. As soon as it came to me I raced outside with scissors and chalk and pulled some black landscape cloth out of an outdoor pot where I’d stuck it months ago. I marked and cut and came inside where I pulled out the sewing machine and stitched my creation together. May I present my impetuous whimsy – Mr. Trash Dummy.

So I have been trying to reduce my trash for 4 ½ months, but I don’t have a good sense of how well I am doing. Here is one foot of trash (get it?) from the last 2 weeks. I really have no idea how long it will take to totally fill up my trash dummy. This isn't very scientific, but it is gratifying in a childishly simple way.

I compost my food scraps, I have almost no mail or junk mail and this goes to my worms too. I recycle, though that is pretty minimal too. The bits and bobs of plastic and foil, plastic from my restaurant take out containers. I recently bought a so-called earth friendly detergent. So I will have that big container at some point. I return my egg cartons to the farmer and often use yogurt containers. This should be interesting.

Seriously, I think there is something to having a visual. In Fake Plastic Fish, Beth Terry photographs her plastic trash and weighs it too. I am partial to the human shape. I think this will be my way of showing myself how well I am doing with eliminating trash. And possibly I can come up with a use for Mr. Trash Dummy.

Screen Beans in the Microsoft world are still my favorites.

Main Entry: dum•my

  1. a: a person who is incapable of speaking b: a person who is habitually silent c: a stupid person
  2. a: the exposed hand in bridge played by the declarer in addition to his own hand b: a bridge player whose hand is a dummy
  3. an imitation, copy, or likeness of something used as a substitute: as a: mannequin b: a stuffed figure or cylindrical bag used by football players for tackling and blocking practice c: a large puppet usually having movable features (as mouth and arms) manipulated by a ventriloquist dchiefly British : pacifier 2
  4. one seeming to act independently but in reality controlled by another
  5. a: a mock-up of a proposed publication (as a book or magazine) b: a set of pages (as for a newspaper or magazine) with the position of text and artwork indicated for the printer

S128: Show and Tell

When I started my mobile home remodel three years ago, I left the shed in the back out of most of the original work. These snapshots are a sort of show and tell or the shed's rebirth into a welcoming space.

This photo show how shed-like and utilitarian the little structure was when I bought the place (not the land). There was a huge storage container, 72w x36d x42h sitting in the path right outside the shed door. As a space planner I was miserable with the lack of traffic flow for any real functionality of the back area, hinged storage box and shed. Added to this was a fence and a gate that swung in the path of the shed door.

The previous owner put down carpet inside, a counter and shelves. He claims he worked in this windowless box of mold. (I’d bought after a winter of flooding rain and mold was everywhere. He also said his teenage kids slept there when they came to visit and to surf or scuba. BTW, the big mystery box was for all of the scuba and surfing gear I guess.

My first project was to demo that storage box and paint the shed exterior to match my add-on rooms.

During the construction phase I found all kinds of broken mirrors in the park dumpster and put them to use as fragmented surface for the fence. I spent a winter experimenting with adhesives I had left from projects. I finally had to admit defeat and purchase adhesives made for mirrors. My goal was to give the narrow (3’) walkway in back some light and sparkle. It definitely opened it up. I then painted the top fence with all of the leftover paint from my home remodel and past home projects. This gave my exterior the smile it needed.

The piece de resistance turned out to be a 15 minute inspiration to paint the pavers black and white. They were pink like the scalloped border bricks I STILL haven’t eliminated. Blek. Lava rock was everywhere and I had to find more pavers from neighbors and around my place to fill in where the big box had sat. Damn. It was a spontaneous decision that proved to be the signature element of my home. Who knew?

Two summers ago a friend I hadn’t seen in years came and helped me finish the shed into a guest house. We were helped by a neighbor who put in two windows and the shelves. All of this was barter or friendship. I am blessed.

Twice I have rented this little tiny room out for several months at a time. This has helped me survive my losses in income. My lease disallows subletting, so I really can’t do this on the up and up. I could probably rent it for storage if I would get rid of everything in there, but then I’d not have it for tools and overflow.

I asked that same neighbor to mount the bed frame mobile home at the back and up high enough for me to put an under-counter refrigerator inside. The original mobile home back door was mounted at counter height just inside the door. There are two shelves under this counter for all of my storage boxes.

As a guest house it really isn’t practical. Nobody I am friends with now would stay in this little room without a toilet, refrigerator or microwave. And heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer are also an issue.

I think that the ultimate use will be clearer to me as I become more adept in my sustain-ABILITY. Like the word responsibility, I actually hear the emphasis in my own head as ability, a self measurement.

So many, many things to learn and know. This little shed, like my little home, was a wonderful training project.

S127: Snapshots of a Community

Today I am simply going to share some of the colorful projects in my little community. I would love to take the credit, but my role has largely been that of a chronicler and cheerleader. I have painted a hell of a lot, and planted some – but the manager of the park is a young woman with no ‘off’ button. So far, the contributions of time, tools, paint and objects have transformed this place. The best part must be the anonymous giving. These little surprises that are left here and there and we don’t know who placed them.

S126: StuporMarket

This morning I read an AlterNet article “How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get It Back” from a new book by Ann Vileisis.
She questions how we got to the place where so many of us Americans don’t know where food comes from anymore.

How was it that basic ignorance about foods had become truly the norm in our culture, and what difference has it made?

That's what this book is about.

The answers to my questions, I looked to history. By keeping my bead on what America's home cooks have known and not known about their foods, I began to track the gulf in understanding that rapidly grew over time as distance between farms and kitchens widened. Two hundred years ago, most Americans knew a lot more about what they ate in a direct, firsthand, rooted-in-the-earth way because most had an actual hand in growing a sizable share of their foods.

As America went from being a nation of farmers to being one of workers and consumers, growing numbers of city dwellers had to grapple with procuring and cooking foods in new ways. Over the course of only a few generations, we went from knowing particular places and specific stories behind our foods' origins to instead knowing very little in an enormous and anonymous food system.

Ann Vileisis says she is interested in the thinking behind this cognitive shift in the consumer separating the eating experience from the raising and producing food. This is the kind of thing that intrigues me too. As I have written about frequently in the last 5 months, Myths America is behind so much of what is being believed, said and done in modern US culture, without a shred of analytical back up.

Speaking of that, I must make clear that this morning I am merely acting as a conceptual conduit. I have not read this book or analyzed its agenda. I am openly cherry picking some of this article’s excerpts to promote my own recognition of the stupor I have observed in the big grocery chain stores. I look at the carts filled with food-like products and I am amazed how many check out clerks have no idea what real produce is and too often need to call over the intercom for a price check or turn to me and ask, “What is this?” I have often thought about a quote I read that asked,

Don’t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?

According to Ms. Vileisis, it took an army of ad men and subsidized home economists five decades to convince women to trust the industrialized changes in food processing and distribution.

Eventually, by the late 1920s, a new ideal of modernity had gained powerful cachet in society and exerted new influence on what attributes were valued in foods; the uniform and hygienic trumped the flavorful and distinctive. As homemakers learned to rely more and more on advertisements and outside experts for information, they came to mistrust their own taste buds and kitchen know-how.
Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed. Over time, the mores that trend setting, affluent city women adopted in their kitchens influenced broader cultural ideals even for the poorest mothers of the rural South, many of whom aspired to cook, serve, and eat processed foods they couldn't afford.

Eventually, American shoppers of every class and gender would experience this transformation in one way or another. Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.

My own mother was born in the twenties and her mother had learned to cook on the farm as the oldest daughter in a family of 9 children. I learned a few things – mostly baking – from my grandmother. My own mother has always had a sort of disdain for real food. Since I was a little girl I remember canned food, jello and eventually TV dinners. She could cook and always fixed us regular meals, but she always was and is convinced her Welch’s grape juice is as healthy (or more so) than any whole fruit. This is a woman that is an ad campaign’s dream. She is adamant about her ‘superior’ food choices on her low budget. Sigh*

This cost issue is the one I find most upsetting. The cost of buying this ‘cheap food’ is staggering. The cost at checkout for Ramen noodles is rock bottom affordable, as all college students know. But there is only the tiniest fraction of useable nutrition for the money and the salty empty eating reminds me of the Haitian Dirt Cookie. Granted, it is shot full of flavor enhancing chemicals . . . To return to this article’s overview:

Ultimately, the ignorance of shoppers became as integral to the modern food system as any technology or infrastructure. The new sense of "knowing" that had been vigorously cultivated to encourage homemakers to trust experts and accept modern foods went on to shield an increasingly industrial style of food production from public scrutiny in the 1940s and 1950s.

During these critical decades, agriculture was utterly refashioned to meet industrial ideals of efficiency: small farms were consolidated into larger farms operated by fewer people with larger equipment and more petroleum; more synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were brought into use to grow high-yield monoculture crops; more wetlands were drained to bring more farmland into production; more rivers were dammed to irrigate more cropland in arid but temperate areas; and the expanding use of antibiotics permitted meat production to grow to a scale never before imagined.

Next we hit the decades of my own first hand experience of food knowledge. One of the reason’s my mother embraced the convenience foods was clearly her full time work outside our home. And even though I became enthralled with Middle Eastern cooking of my husband’s family and loved staking out my first gardens, my own feminist sensibilities curtailed my passion for food growing and preparation. There were two dominant issues of labor intensive work and the weight of daily obligatory tasks. In 1970 as a new mother with a part time job and the first consciousness raising group in my city, I struggled mightily with the relentlessness of the amount of work involved in trying to have the best kind of home I could create in a patriarchal culture. By the second baby and full time work, convenience won. Besides, the campaigns to keep people from opting out of the system were very powerful. I remember the disinformation about ‘hippies’ and ‘cultists’ and ‘communes’ in general conversation. As I said before, as I felt myself such an independent, strong woman, I was exactly falling lock step into the Agri-Business, Food Industry plan. *Sigh

As families more frequently consumed quick-fix convenience dinners and ate meals out at popular fast-food restaurants, indifference about foods' sources further increased. Ultimately, we have ended up in the absurd situation today that most of us, as consumers, know very little about what we eat; and, sensing a "dark side" to our foods' production, many of us don't even want to know. [snip]
Any America history that examines how we've lost track of where our food comes from must confront a deep, almost wistful question that lurks just below the surface of our collective consciousness: Is the "where" our food comes from "nature"? Of course, our food does ultimately come from soil, sunlight, and water, and for tens of thousands of years the human experience of procuring food -- be it by hunting, gathering, or agriculture -- was linked closely to knowing the ins and outs of the natural world.
Today, however, beyond the supermarket, food derives not only from an obscured nature but also from behind-the-scenes tractors, gasoline, laser-leveled fields, fertilizers, irrigation ditches, pesticides, combines, migrant workers, laboratories, sanitized factories, stinking feedlots, semitrucks, and highways. In spite of this -- and perhaps because of this -- the cultural idea of nature (as opposed to the soil, sunlight, and water that make up the physical environment) has become an important, if confusing, category for how many of us think about our foods, and one worth examining more closely from a historical perspective.
The article concludes with what everyone who reads a blog such as make-a-(green)plan knows: the people across this country who are becoming aware and connected to the nature and the healthier processes of food raising, preparation is growing. The figure given is 20% a year, but I suspect the exponential and accelerated growth will place this much higher in the near future.

Post Script: Solar cooking success! This morning I ate oatmeal I put in the solar cooker a couple of hours before. Yesterday I had successful oatmeal in one pot and brown rice for my dinner meal – both cooked by the sun. I am so thrilled.

Images from Kitchen Literacy http://www.kitchenliteracy.com/Kitchen_Literacy/Kitchen_Literacy.html

S125: Scattered . . .

Since Sunday I have been unable to formulate an essay of any worth. It is the oddest thing, given the fact I have been bursting with so many thoughts, ideas, arguments, goals, retrospections and opinions. I have bookmarked a half dozen websites, started a dozen or more placeholders for titles, links and basic concepts. I have doubled back to these embryo blog posts and added quotes, outlines and images.

Even so, yesterday was a grey, cool Monday and nothing gelled. My many ideas about square footage; like my note to get some measurements and calculations of grocery stores for real food: non-food ratios. Or square footage notes in my life, my gardens. Soap nuts, simple life, sewing for summer. . .

Screw it. Sometimes I just need to walk away.

I am in the middle of Air mode –of the four elements; fire, air, earth and water - for the rest of this month’s writing construct or style. It’s fitting because today I am scattered to the winds . . .

Air represents mental activity, thoughts, reason and intellect, memory, knowledge, persuasion, birth and friendship, freedom, clarification and expression. A low Air person seems without any direction and unable to define or visualize any future and can not reason out the alternatives and objectives. A high Air person is at ease in complex situations and can sit and think things through, and can carry through with decisions.

Different types of Air Magick include Visualizations. An important tool in any magick work, it makes the events happen. For this type, it is important that all the other factors such as color, time, the moon phase, winds, etc. are all in balance. And to have the other tools working such as incense and candle burning, or even the right tea or wine to drink in the background. This is because you need to "fix" or "ground" the images or ideas you are using in your visualization.

Obviously I am not a ‘high Air person’ - at least this week.

Spiritualeze, my name for the Wiccan verbiage above – like a biblical verse or prayer or other ceiling cat or flying spaghetti monster homily - can really help prime the pump, foment ideas or let them coalesce what is going on inside of me. I don’t *believe* in any of these things as a *higher power* any longer.

Oh yeah, and I made one of my infrequent calls to my mother on mother’s day. I love my 84 year old mother and I write her willingly – if not joyfully – every week. But when we speak I realize we are separated by far, far more than the thousands of miles between California and Omaha, Nebraska. The great sadness of realizing we share so very little in our beliefs or purpose or sense of what life is about really gets me down. This is, for me, what keeps me from calling more often or traveling back to the Mid-west. The disappointment is profound. We spoke, laughed, queried and commiserated before warmly signing off in loving ways.

But, since the call I simply unplugged something in myself to stop myself from dwelling on these differences. I am not drinking so I couldn’t numb myself with booze. My cupboards are pretty useless for ‘comfort food’ and I no longer have television or a working DVD player. I don’t want this to be anything more than, ‘oh well it is just the way it is in families.’ So, I am a bit scattered as I slip from task to task and thought to thought. This too shall pass.

Stop back another time and I will delight and amaze you with my focused insights.

Flickr image of scattered seeds

R124: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse Review . . . cha cha cha

Okay, this is where the blog is clearly a vanity blog, a private journal. Like so many others working at blogging about a sustainable lifestyle, the minutia of our lives becomes so very important. Any readers who may have followed me from Shakesville or another feminist blog might scratch her or his head and think, jeebus who cares about these details?

This is about changing lives in the simple little routines of our lives. This is how we start to save our planet quite dramatically – from the subjective terrain of our own vantage points. Our billions of points BTW . . . It is time to take a snapshot of where I am at right now.

I love this quote I read today written by a blogger from down under.
Every time we blog about reducing our fuel consumption, every time we decide to install solar panels, when we start growing some of our own food, when we step out of the mainstream and mend our clothes, when we decide to downshift or get rid of our debt, every time we blog about our greener lives – it makes the corporate world gulp and take notice. People power is an incredible force.

Whatever you can do, do it. Whatever changes you’re thinking about, make them happen. There is a revolution happening and we are leading it, my friends. It might be a quiet and gentle start but what we are doing is significant and vital. I’m sure the mainstream media will claim the revolution as its own soon, and will shout loudly about living greener and more frugal lives, and I know our governments will then be more pro-active. In the meantime, we need to keep encouraging each other through our blogs, we need to show and tell everyday about how our lives are being lived in all our small towns, in our suburbs and in our cities. We need to lead our governments to this brave new world.

My own revolution started just as I turned 60 at the end of last year. I started make-a-(green)plan blog to herald the changes I was going to take on to live a more sustainable life.

A1: Air, my first numbered post this challenge year I wrote the following:

What am I doing in the next year that will help with global warming – clearing the befouled air, that halo of atmosphere?
  • Water I use
  • Gas I burn driving
  • Electrical energy I use
  • Factory made food I consume
  • Food from outside local area
  • Factory products I consume
  • Waste I produce
  • Paper & Cardboard (or compost)
  • Glass
  • Fabric
  • Plastic
  • Cloth shopping bags
  • Cloth dish rags & towels
  • Cloth napkins
  • Cloth hankies
  • Cloth toilet wipes
  • Glass jars

Before I begin I have the observation that the first category, reduce is by far the most vital in my own mind. I am not a proponent of the ‘green’ lifestyle that is about changing nothing but the product brand to a ‘eco-friendly’ version any more than those vegetarians who must buy pretend meat products made from soy or chicken. My own belief is that there are dozens and dozens of meaningless products we have been urged (she says with sarcasm) to buy for convenience. I no longer drink that kool-aid.

The reuse category has been a great one for me to introduce into my life. These reusable elements are my favorite. Repurposing found objects weren’t even mentioned in my original list and yet this is where I have derived the most satisfaction. I have been photographing these and sharing them here, here, here and here.

The second category of recycle is one I feel least involved with in my own lifestyle. My goal has been to try and head the waste off before it enters my home. I don’t feel we should be entertaining all of this notions of recycled being a pass. There are so many costs involved.

I have reduced the water I use significantly. I used to shower daily. Now I shower once a week and occasionally twice. I sink bathe if I feel I need more frequent cleaning. I wear the same clothes for 3 or 4 days. I don’t wash my truck and outside windows like I used to with the hose. Frankly, I am sad to see the truck’s finish erode in the sea air. I don’t flush except when I poop and then I often have grey water from my shower or whatever to use for flushing. I found a definite drop in water use by not being as anxious about cleanliness. I live alone and I don’t do intense physical labor. It is such a waste to obsess.

My gas use may drop even more as I am giving my truck to my son in a couple of weeks, though I hardly drive at all and haven’t for more than a year. Almost all of my errands are under 4-6 miles round trip. I have all but eliminated grocery store buying, except for a few items I don’t have on hand or get from the farmer’s market. I hope to get a bike (would love the electric bike) instead.

My electrical use has dropped from last year and the year before at this time, I am using about 60% of what I used to burn. I would love for it to be 10%. I just gave up the television and the heater last month. I hope to zap more phantom power and eliminate more cooking with the onset of more garden salads and solar cooking. My greatest drop came from not having the water heater on and keeping lights off at night. Eliminating appliances, unplugging or turning off power cords and putting coffee in a carafe are all helpful when I remember. This is the part where repetition will help me this year. My own body clock might be better attuned to the sun and I would save more. If I was only awake when the sun was up, I’d see a real savings – as summer is a coming.

As I have said, factory food is fairly minimal. I haven’t had boxed food for some years. I would have to count my meals at my son’s restaurant as factory meals though, because they don’t buy local or necessarily organic. The meat meals I have eaten this year have been from there. This is indeed ‘cheating’ but I am not claiming perfection. I have also succumbed to some snack food and salami a couple of times recently. So shoot me. I am proud I am not buying meat. Three years ago I ate meat for three meals each day.

Consumer goods are all but eliminated. I did make the exception this year with items to help me lead a more sustainable life. I have written about the toilet lid sink, manual washing machine and the solar oven. Oh yes, I also popped for a recycled toothbrush with re-usable handle for replacement bristles and some quart and gallon jars for food storage. Factory made household cleaners are almost gone though I did buy ‘green’ laundry detergent and some bleach in a fit of fastidiousness a week ago. I have had thrift store buys, but these have no carbon implications – only frugality and clutter issues. I used to have thrift store jonesing and I finally snapped out of that a couple years ago.

As I said, the recycle category is a bit of a snore. My food goes to the compost, the little bit of paper (envelopes mostly and political junk) also go to the worms. What plastic, glass or aluminum that needs to be recycled does. I eliminated water bottles and most other plastic, don’t buy many condiments and no juices so glass is rare. My one big error is forgetting to take reusable containers instead of getting the restaurant stuff. Though they are switching to recyclable soy or corn take out containers, there is still the plastic bag. I am thinking of making a ‘Waste Man’ out of black sunscreen fabric and hanging him like a windsock out back. I will fill him with the plastic and other stuff I can’t recycle and call him Art (or John McCain, full of crap). If he fills to the brim, I’ll give him a brother. I will fill up as many men with my waste as it takes this year. I would hope it is only one. We shall see.

On the whole I am feeling I have made some real progress. This month is a reading challenge at Green Bean Dreams. I didn’t sign up and I think I should be reading more. On the other hand I have thrown myself into my neighborhood community garden and painting projects, so I have moved out of my comfort zone. I hope to also kick myself out of the house and into more fun past times in nature this summer. There is much to look forward to in the season ahead.