John Cusack and Tim Robbins in the movie 'Tapeheads'

Y174: Year Half Over

I imagined back in December that at this halfway mark, 26 weeks into this challenge, I would be presenting my stats on the reductions I have made in electricity use, water, fuel etc. Yes, I envisioned some tidy list. But, when I even start cataloging these statistics in my own mind, I find it bores me. Yeah, yeah, 230 kWh yada, yada . . .

I learned this morning that if this whole thing were the lists, the stats in my imagination, this would be called a listicle.

Listicle n. a (newspaper, magazine, web site, etc.) article consisting primarily of a list.

What the hell, why not just continue in the list tradition. In looking back I find since January 2008 I had lists about stuff to purge, appliances, myths in America, my favorite blogs and internet strengths, visioning exercise questions, MLK volunteering challenges, ecofreak challenges, cleansing food and cleaning supplies.

This is what I wrote the first week of January:
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 napkins
  • Cloth hankies
  • Cloth wipes
  • Glass jars

Six weeks prior to today’s halfway mark listicle I felt the need to review where I was at with this general list. It is a thorough review without list specifics or many statistics. And this was done prior to my list of telephone, television, truck and internet elimination. Correction. Although elimination is a word I would prefer to use, reduction or change or substitution are each words better suited to what I hope to accomplish before the end of July. I will be eliminating costs while retaining usage in new ways.

Lists are a part of a small fraction of every month’s posts. In February I had a jump in posts on design and feminism, while lists were incorporated in my posts on decomposition rates for garbage, the dirty dozen products to keep out of the home, the major phone companies’ sins (including spying), electrical usage statistics, diets don’t work, global grocery bill comparisons, girlie goop, and a list of stuff white people like. Note: not included in the last list, but ironically one of the recent things documented at Stuff White People Like . . . You guessed it, statistics.

By March I all but eliminated lists. Indeed I only had two lists 1) quiz questions for television electricity usage and 2) losses. In April I listed worm attributes, Fauxgressive or anti-feminist despite list, cost of living items from the 60’s, old white men's hit list and all my slipped patterns / habits due to community projects. May’s lists were major. Besides the year to date review and the elimination post already mentioned. I will be reissuing my 26 item 2nd half of the year purge list soon.

This month of June ending tomorrow had some statistics on a manual pump and was followed by the list from Grist called How to talk to a Climate Skeptic. This is a cornucopia of a list too.

So, I started this year with my step one priority baselines of usage. These were the Riot for Austerity numbers with the American averages and the 90% reduction numbers alongside.

In the broadest sense, I have reduced electrical, water usage and have minimal trash. I just don’t buy things. My only purchases besides the solar oven, manual washer, toilet sink and food storage containers have been at the thrift store. Cleaning products, personal products, all paper goods and most plastics are gone. My fossil fuel usage is next to nothing and my food is primarily local. But even with these giant steps forward, the last half of this year will bring some serious eliminations, reductions and reuse/retrofits.

At this point I think I will continue with only the occasional list. I would love to generate some charts, just because it is geeky and I might have fun finally learning more mastery over the MS chart function. (Microsoft and mastery in the same sentence is oxymoronic, besides geeky.)

Thing is, I know myself well enough to know that on some day in the future I will be riveted by the numbers and want to get it all onto an excel spreadsheet. Yikes, I just can’t imagine right now why the fuck it seems worthy when the thought of it strikes me as more than a bit obsessive.

In part I believe that I have become critical of my own tendency to think what I am doing is special. I know better. There are people doing what I am doing much more completely, creatively, educationally, etc. I value this experience for my sake and it’s not for nothing. My angst is this; I am wobbly about what part of all this matters beyond my own musings.

Coffee mug via Despair, Inc

Y173: Yutz 'R Us

This Onion piece is just scary in its reality. *sigh*

Yesterday I tried to watch a clip from the Today Show. It was so sickening to hear Matt Lauer's vapid questions I couldn't get through it.

Y172: Y Axis @ 350

A video in International speak . . .

Hat tip to No Impact Man

Y171: Yuk Factor

As my experiences deepen six months into my sustainability challenge, I am realizing I am losing my fastidious filter™. I believe it was installed sometime during toddler days of my mother’s training to feed myself and use the potty.

Come to think of it, I think the 50’s for this little white girl was about serious ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ conventions. Nightly baths, clean ironed dresses every day and white gloves, polished shoes for Sunday School.

Throughout childhood, teenage years and adulthood many thousands, no millions, of fastidious filter™ upgrades were downloaded into my conscious and subconscious mind from advertising. Advertising and peer pressure in our current world can’t be treated as separate spheres. We are shaped by the pack and our handlers in corporate advertising know it.

Millions and millions of up-down, good-bad forces and messages let the American consumer know that happiness, security, recognition and wisdom are attained through products. The vast majority of products never existed even 50 or a hundred years ago, but are now considered vital. Let me name just three and some Wikipedia stats:

Shampoo. I stopped using March 26.
Originally, soap and shampoo were very similar products; both containing surfactants, a type of detergent. Modern shampoo as it is known today was first introduced in the 1930s with Drene, the first synthetic (non-soap) shampoo.

From ancient times to this day, Indians have been using different formulations of shampoos using herbs like neem, shikakai or soapnut, henna, bael, brahmi, fenugreek, buttermilk, amla, aloe, and almond in combination with some aromatic components like sandalwood, jasmine, turmeric, rose, and musk.

Paper Towels, I stopped using three years ago.

In 1879, a school teacher in Philadelphia gave students individual paper squares, so that the single towel in the bathroom would not be infected with germs.

Toilet Paper, I stopped using in December 2007.

The Scott Brothers are often cited as being the first to sell rolled and perforated toilet paper, but unless they were doing so without a patent, the beginning of toilet paper and dispensers familiar in the 21st century is with Seth Wheeler of Albany, NY, who obtained several patents. The first of note is for the idea of perforating commercial papers (25 July 1871, #117355), the application for which includes and illustration of a perforated roll of paper. On 13 February 1883 he was granted patent #272369, which presented a roll of perforated wrapping or toilet paper supported in the center with a tube. Wheeler also had patents for mounted brackets that held the rolls. Under the name Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Co., the product was manufactured as early as 1886 at their factory just north of downtown Albany.

Life before these products was not by definition dirty or uncouth. The Chinese royalty had toilet papers for centuries. The wealthy of the world have always had any number of things to wipe their butts and wash their hands, their hair. But, the vast majority of living people survived many centuries without ‘products’ for head to toe (or butt) cleaning. Rivers, streams, lakes, grasses, herbs, textiles and air were and are now all used by people to clean up. It isn’t that complicated.

Having said that, it’s true the invention of disposable paper products in the last 130 years did achieve a great thing towards slowing the spread of germs. In particular fecal matter is still a modern day killer in spreading disease. But germs can be avoided or cleaned away without chemicals and paper. Sunlight or heat, air and water used with fibers/ baking soda –earth basics are the 4 essential elements in action. The disposable products of hospitals are now a nightmare of toxic waste and the chemical anti-bacterial products have all but wiped out healthy, protective bacteria. Can we say too much of a good thing with the fastidious filter™?

And even if there was some really compelling reason to cling to shampoo, toilet paper and paper towels, Americans might still weigh what possible reason could justify the packaging of these products beyond branding – more advertising for these non-essential?

Yes, non-essential . . . Despite the yuk factor we have been programmed, manipulated and peer pressured into feeling, I personally have experienced the unlearning of this yuk factor (high range of the fastidious filter™) is healthier or more wholesome feeling.

Besides learning a simpler approach to living and needing fewer and fewer reasons to ever enter a grocery store, here are the bonus points for never buying toilet paper, paper towels or shampoo:

Carbon Footprint

  • no waste for the landfill
  • no forests destroyed
  • no petroleum products manufacture products, containers or any packaging
  • no fossil fuels used to transport


  • hundreds of dollars saved in a year
  • initial investments $0 for 80 cloth wipes from old black flannel sheets, existing cleaning cloths and towels
  • large container of baking soda for hair and other household cleaning I already had and more than half of it was a donation in the laundry room. (My neighbor and I split the package and shook our heads with trying to figure out; who would not want baking soda?)
  • ~ $70 investment for clothesline, manual washer & soap nuts at beginning of the year


  • save a lot of running around time since I have all I need right here.
  • I can deal with washing cloths, towels in a grabbed moment with only a few more minutes to hang on a drying rack or the line
  • washing my hair is a simple wash in the sink with the occasional baking soda without the production number of full grooming mode


  • compare time to earn the money to buy the toilet paper, paper towels or shampoo at or before running out and feeling the emergency of needing to dash to the store to simply never needing to feel the anxiety or stress of a lost job, no toilet paper/paper towels or shampoo.

That last one may have seemed like a stretch. But I remember my mother many years ago, after she and my dad divorced. I was already out of the house and on my own. She was struggling financially and working a crap job. She told me her biggest fear right then was running out of toilet paper. She would stock up like a snow storm was coming. That’s a serious fastidious filter™ my Mom has and I ought to know.

Helpful links
No Shampoo is the link provided by Jeanne at Life Less Plastic

Just in today . . . Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish jumps in.

Alternet article about Chemical toxins in our everyday products like shampoo

Toilet Habits by the beancounter

Disposable Paper Towel PSA Design

Today I decided not to include my own personal descriptions of the process of deciding to eliminate these products. In part, this was because I found the previous links so descriptive and entertaining. My own decisions and experience were pretty jejune.

Okay, I can relax now that I remembered to use one of my favorite words before June ended. I know it has nothing to do with June. Indulge me.

Update: My spelling sucks. I fixed an error and for the record . . . I often fix my idiot mistakes after the fact.

Y170: YouTube

I admit that I have leaned more heavily on YouTube this year than I'd imagined I would. Sometimes it is simply fluff, filler . . . a substitute for my own material or research. Then again, I am so impressed by this medium. Just a couple of years ago videos on the internet were slow to load, choppy and largely a pain. Now it had changed for the better and I am awed by the ease of of exchanging information.

This month the Transition Towns piece in particular, and it was one of a myriad on this theme, ranked high as video education, guidance and inspiration It is a good example of something that is better to see and hear directly than my summary or analysis of the information.

If this format is negative for my visitors, I am curious. Let me know if viewing YouTube is preferable or not whether it is comic relief, video education or guidance-inspiration. Now here is something that is definately comic relief.

H/t Todd @ Shakesville

Y169: You thought poop from cruise ships was bad . . .

Ship to Nowehere
From Collateral News
This week's story fits perfectly with what we've learned about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay: According to UK-based human rights organization 'Reprieve' the U.S. has used navy ships acting as prisons throughout the world. Some accounts indicate that the abuse suffered on these ships was worse than that suffered in Guantanamo.

Crunchy Chicken had a post about Fun Cruises that focused on poop in the water. We can have a lot of pearl clutching about nasty environmental practices for luxury liners, while simultaneously be pushing back against Myths America. The American Empire is torturing and killing around the world – and on the high seas. There is a place for our outrage, blogging and activism across all levels of our efforts to lead conscious lives. Poop to politics isn't really a leap.

Y168: Yogurt

Most Wednesdays I write about a new food I am trying, but today I am going to write about one of my favorite standbys in my ovo-lacto vegetarian eating. I mention yogurt almost every week it seems.

I have already written here in make-a-(green)plan about my first episode of eating a Lebanese dish of yogurt with cucumbers and dried mint. I nearly gagged with the completely foreign taste when I was expecting a whipped cream ambrosia salad. Subsequently I became a huge fan and advocate for plain yogurt. I could care less if I ever have milk or cottage cheese again. Same with ice cream or cream for my coffee. But yogurt, especially yogurt cheese – you’d see me grovel for this. Ironically, in that post about my first taste I sneered at all the ‘white’ or 'beige' food of the US diet I grew up eating. Today I find, in the text I am quoting about Middle Eastern yogurt, or laban, the word comes from LBN, the Arabic word ‘white’. BTW, these Arabic words have a different phonetic spelling in every place I see them.

Instead of mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese or ranch dressing I use yogurt with herbs and spices. I don’t have to buy any of these prepared foods if I have real yogurt. I say real because most of the stuff in the grocery stores seems to be fake yogurt with gelatin rather than cultures. It is also so sweet – even the plain. Yogurt is used to garnish stews and to top potatoes, using only a dollop, to moisten and give hot food a creamy counterpoint in flavor and temperature. I am currently buying this Sadaf Kefir cheese (lebni) product because of the tangy taste and because I can get it easily and cheaply. I made yogurt this year and intend to make this a regular part of my eating routine and this Sadaf yogurt will be my starter. I know where to get milk from a California organic dairy in a glass bottle, but I need to drive. This isn’t in my regular routine and I still have doubts about dairy in my diet, but I am not ruling it out for my make-a-(green)plan goals. In the meantime I can get this Sadaf yogurt cheese a mile or so away.

I no longer have Middle Eastern family or friends around to ask questions, so I turn to the internet. One site has recipes very close to what my mother-in-law taught me forty years ago. I tried to use the contact tab on the site, but it was a dead end. I want to quote this author verbatim about Lebanese cooking and some of my favorite yogurt recipes. I get a kick out of the style.
Lebanese food was always one of the country's principal attractions, and it has now largely passed the borders to become extremely popular in the West. Lebanese cuisine as a whole goes under the heading "health food". It is mostly based on cereals, in the shape of bread, bourghoul (crushed wheat) and rice. A large and varied assortment of vegetables and milk products accompany the above, and meat plays a relatively small part.

Bread was and still is treasured; it is never thrown away. If it has become truly improper for consumption, it is kissed before being disposed of. Stale bread is grilled in the oven or fried so that it becomes dry and crunchy as cracker; such grilled bread is a tasty variant that enters the composition of several dishes.

Several foreign dishes, like couscous, French fries and spaghetti, have been imported into the cuisine and thoroughly modified to the point of rivaling the original recipes. They were adapted to the local ways to the extent of becoming a part of the traditional food.

One more thing should be said about the recipes you will find below: the proportions are merely indicative. Lebanese dishes are very free on that point, and every household adapts the dosage of the ingredients to taste. You too should tweak them until you are happy with the taste. Please note also that Lebanese vegetables are very flavored and very small (as an example, cucumbers are about 4 inches long) and that you may need to take this into consideration when getting the ingredients.
I include here simple recipes that are either daily to us or serve as a basis for other dishes -- starting with making your own yogurt and derivatives the Lebanese way.

What the west calls yogurt, that we call laban, was already made and enjoyed thousands of years ago by the Phoenicians. Laban, labneh, and Lebanon all come from the ancient word LBN meaning "white". If you like yogurt, you will enjoy making your own with this very old method.

(yogurt or curdled milk)

1 liter of milk (during the war when only powder milk was available, my mom would use that and it would turn out great)
1 tablespoon of rennet (or readymade yogurt)

If the milk is raw, boil it. [?] If it's pasteurized, warm it to 451⁄4C (if you can insert your finger and count till 10 without getting burned, the temperature is right).
Dilute the rennet or yogurt in a bit of milk and pour into the lukewarm milk. It is even better if the latter is in an earthenware recipient at that point. Stir with a spoon then cover with a thick duffel or the like.
Leave it 4 hours.

Yogurt/laban can be eaten sweet or salted, and we use it for many recipes such as stuffed zucchini with laban, stuffed vine leaves with laban, meat stew with laban... A very simple and very fresh recipe is to mix laban with crushed dry mint leaves, salt and sliced cucumbers.

Once you have made laban, you can make a variety of derivatives, the most popular of them all being labneh.

(drained curdled milk)

Prepare the laban as explained above, then add 1 teaspoon of salt for every liter you have.
Stir gently and then pour inside a thin mesh bag. Suspend the bag overnight so that it can drain; my mom would suspend it to the tap of the kitchen sink. Whether you want the laban to lose all or part of its water is up to you. The result will be a white spread-like cheese. Empty the contents of the bag in a dish, beat slightly and keep in the fridge.

There are many ways to eat labneh, this wonderfully healthy and versatile cheese.
• The classical way is to spread it in a round dish, and with a spoon create a depression in the center so that the result is like a shallow labneh basin. Pour olive oil all over: it will form a pool in the center of the dish. Eat it by taking scoops with "pita" bread, accompanying it with salt, mint leaves, or olives.
• If you like garlic, pound some and mix it to the labneh to obtain labneh-with-garlic, a delicacy.
• Spread it in "pita" bread or even on toast bread and add slices of cucumber or tomato.
• The young generation appreciates labneh as an alternative dip for french fries or nachos.

(drained labneh)

Prepare labneh but let the laban drain completely. At that stage, the cheese comes easily loose from the bag. Transfer it to a bowl and knead it well so as not to leave any lump. If it's not drained enough, put it back in the bag for a few more hours. Check that it is salted to your taste.
Thoroughly heap the resulting cheese in a glass jar that can be sealed, and keep it in the fridge or a fresh place.

Both laban and labneh keep a while in a sealed container in the fridge, but if they turn sour they should be thrown away. Packed labneh can be kept up to 6 months.

(labneh in oil)

Prepare labneh malboudeh, but instead of packing the labneh in a jar, roll little balls the size of a nut in your hands. Fill a jar with olive oil up to 1/3rd, then fill it with the labneh balls. Add oil as you go; when the jar is full, the balls should be covered with about 1/2 inch oil. Prepared in this way, and if you're careful to always keep oil above the balls once you start consuming them, the cheese can be kept for over a year. However, as it ages it turns slightly more sour (personally I like it best when it does).

When prepared with goat milk, this recipe is a delicacy.

(labneh drink)

The basic labneh, cut with water and salted, makes a refreshing drink to be served cold.

Recipes from Fayez Aoun's 280 recettes de cuisine familiale libanaise.

Laban image
Cheese in oil
P.S. A beautiful website for recipes and photographs of labney is Swirl and Scramble.

Y167: Yesterday’s fashion

From Inhabitat, Goonj At this source there are more photos and background entitled, Not Just a Piece of Cloth from Global Oneness.

Like Crunchy Chicken’s Goods 4 Girls, the Indian edition.

Y166: Y Chromosomes? Not necessary . . .

Women as Revolutionaries and Liberators

Throughout time and cultures

This whole series is uplifting. I needed a reminder of the gift that is being a woman.

h/t hecate

Y165: You have to be asleep . . .

"It's Called the American Dream Because You Have To Be Asleep to Believe It"

George Carlin is gone. He died yesterday.
He knew far more than those we elected.

P.S. shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.
A reminder via dday.

X164: Control X - Impeachment

X’ed out – Media Blackout of Denis Kucinich’s effort to impeach Cheney and Bu$h. Like it never happened . . .

I simply can’t believe there is any point in viewing any of the infotainment put out by corporate ‘so-called’ news. There are wonderful blog sources that summarize with factual transcripts, videos and other citations for anyone interested in what the broken political system is doing on any given day. But, to voluntarily participate in what is a propaganda exercise that is solely, completely about the media remaining in a wealth-generating, power position is (for viewers) simply addiction. America, snap out of it.

Most important congressional move this year, no coverage.

X163: Axel

Misstep is metaphorically a mistake, wrong choice or blunder. A misstep is sometime a kind way of saying FUBAR, fucked up beyond all reason. But it pays to remember that a misstep can also be a mistaken step, literally where you put your foot down. Axel is my nephew and he made a tragic misstep this week. He stepped into a saw blade and nearly lost his right foot. I can’t think about that or even type those words without a body shudder at the horror of such damage and pain.

Ever since I learned he was in the hospital I have been thinking about him. Last night I joined my neighbors for a Solstice gathering under the trees and the gibbous moon. I’d sent an image of this full solstice moon to Axel’s mom, my BFF, to let her know I would be sending healing magik through the moon. That was hyperbole because I no longer practice solitary Wicca or Christianity or any other formalized spiritual path. I do feel the power of my thoughts and intentions and direct these as best I can. And I try to be open to the world around me.

Axel was born 19 years ago in the spring, just 6 weeks before my daughter died. Angela and I went shopping in New York for a present and she picked out some tiny little Converse™ sneakers. She loved Converse™ (shoes in general) and a new pair had been a prized possession 5 years before - our first year in New York. So, we cracked up over the tiny little shoes. And although we have lived in different states for most of our lives, my friend has always kept me in the family circle by sending me photos and news of Axel. He lost his mother when he was a toddler and was adopted by his grandmother, my friend. Along with her husband, Axel’s dad, caring friends and a scattering of other family, I have been in Axel’s life. I am known as Uncle Kate. (That’s a story from his father’s youth – when he accidentally called me that and it cracked us up so much it stuck.)

Most of all I want to envision Axel as strong and healing. He turned 19 this spring. He has changed a great deal from this graduation photo below. As I am typing I keep stumbling into phrases and expressions that involve the foot. I have rejected these. For example, since graduation Axel has been trying to get his footing, stand on his own two feet . . . aaargh! There are dozens of these:

best foot forward

hold your feet to the fire

drag one's feet

dead on one's feet

drag one’s feet/heels

one's feet are on the ground

find one's feet

from head to toe

a load off one's feet

get or have cold feet

get one’s feet wet

get up

have feet of clay

have one’s feet on the ground

(be practical or sensible)

keep one's feet on the ground

(remain firmly established)

knock (someone) off their feet

land on one’s feet/both feet

let grass grow under one’s feet

on one's feet

on tiptoe

play footsie with (someone)

regain one's feet

stand on one’s own two feet

throw oneself at (someone's) feet

bound hand and foot

balls of one's feet

dead on one's feet

drag one’s feet/heels

feet of clay

find one's feet

have one's feet (planted firmly) on the ground

have two left feet

knock (someone) off their feet

land on one's feet

let the grass grow under one’s feet

light on one's feet

Words fail me. Even the innocent words feel hurtful. The human body communicates life information for us I guess. I remember when I was on a spiritual path I was awed by language in this way. I suspect primitive peoples and those who didn’t know each other’s language used the body to communicate.

Late last night I read the update on Axel’s health from my friend. She wrote,

Absolutely fabulous photo!! Thanks for your healing thoughts! Axel's surgery on Thursday to repair tendon and place plate went well. Wound looks clean. Next week another surgery to repair the nerve and possible bone graft in a few months. He might come home on Saturday.
My first response reading that was anger that he would be released so soon, but these days it is best to get out of the hospital with staph now as dangerous as any disease or injury. My friend said that he was in a newly built hospital and that made her feel it was safer as far as staph infections. He is luckily still insured under their health insurance policy. I don’t even want to contemplate what this accident would have meant otherwise.

This is a babbling mess (and I am blubbing). I have been trying to formulate my thoughts for some hours and nothing will coalesce around this wretched accident for this beautiful boy, Axel. I guess I will just hold him in my heart and my thoughts.

Moon image found here.

X162: X'd out Fourth Amendment

Complete and utter failure of congressional leadership and Barack Obama.
Statement of Senator Barack Obama on FISA Compromise

"Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

"That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

"After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.

"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

"It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people."

As dday at digby's place says,

This endorsement of a X'ing out the Fourth Amendment is waaaay out of bounds.

Melissa at shakesville says,

Hugely disappointing. Hugely.

But, she saw this lack of leadership from Obama (and Clinton, and democratic leadership) last fall when Chris Dodd took a stand against the FISA bill endorsing the pResident' s illegal spying on American citizenry and the play for immunity for the telecoms.

Digby says:

Roy Blunt and Steny Hoyer are practically tongue kissing on the floor right now and congratulating each other on their mutual fabulousness in negotiating the rape of the constitution this morning. It’s quite a love fest.

Capitulating to the most unpopular lame duck president in history because they are afraid of him. Makes you proud to be a Democrat doesn’t it…read on

Update: I felt I must add this important insight from Atrios - being one of the blog boys I rarely read - I found this point right on the mark.


As I've written before, Democrats will regret embracing the expansion of executive power because a President Obama will find his administration undone by an "abuse of power" scandal. All of those powers which were necessary to prevent the instant destruction of the country will instantly become impeachable offenses. If you can't imagine how such a pivot can take place then you haven't been paying attention.


tapped phone image from Michael Moore's site

X161: xkcd

If you have never checked out this website, xkcd, DO.
I love humor that asks one to think. Here are a couple of my favorites.

1 comic
2 comic
3 comic
4 comic

I am too html challenged to do better than this. Very sucky.

X160: Xtreme Heart Painter

From Current TV website . . .

X159: My response is “X”

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

I want to share a fantastic treasure trove of valuable information from Grist. This assembled list represents a handy guide for any of us to keep close by for ‘fill in the blank’ kinds of arguments regarding climate change. As I heard on Democracy Now this week, the Corporate News is still calling this unprecedented weather, Extreme Weather. Headlines, reports, the ‘crawl’ do not connect the dots with Global Warming.

This has gotten personal for me. I have a niece in Cedar Rapids, IA, with two little girls. I found out that they had moved all of their precious belonging up to the top floor, packed up and moved to higher ground at a friend’s home. I googled for articles on connecting the Iowa flood to Climate Change and Global Warming and got nothing.

I have family in the Midwest, and coincidentally relations who are Republican apologists. I know that the kinds of climate skeptics addressed in these hundreds of articles could be from any one of them. The belief in authoritarian framing seems unwavering. It is daunting, but the relentlessness of ‘extreme weather’ is providing the basis for us being able to raise the issue over and over with the skeptics. The Grist article opening and outline follows. Even though I may have gone past fair use limits, I wanted to give the complete outline, stripped of all of the links to make the rationale, the categories apparent. Go to the original source for the complete series list.

Below is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:

Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading.

Stages of Denial

  1. There's nothing happening
    1. Inadequate evidence
    2. Contradictory evidence
    3. No consensus
  2. We don't know why it's happening
    1. Models don't work
    2. Prediction is impossible
    3. We can't be sure
  3. Climate change is natural
    1. It happened before
    2. It's part of a natural change
    3. It's not caused by CO2
  4. Climate change is not bad
    1. The effects are good
    2. The effects are minor
    3. Change is normal
  5. Climate change can't be stopped
    1. Too late
    2. It's someone else's problem
    3. Economically infeasible

Scientific Topics

  1. Temperature
  2. Atmosphere
  3. Extreme events
    1. Temperature records
    2. Storms
    3. Droughts
  1. Cryosphere
    1. Sea ice
    2. Ice sheets
  1. Oceans
  1. Modeling
    1. Uncertainties
  1. Climate forcings
    1. Greenhouse gases
    2. Aerosols
  1. Paleo climate
    1. Ice ages
    2. Geologic history
  1. Scientific process

Types of Argument

  1. Uninformed
  2. Misinformed
  3. Cherry Picking
  4. Urban Myths
  5. FUD
  6. Non Scientific
  7. Underdog Theories
  8. Crackpottery

Levels of Sophistication

  1. Silly
  2. Naive
  3. Specious
  4. Scientific

X158: X is for Flax

This adorable little seed goes into my oatmeal, my salads and many (if not most) of my soups and stir fry. I buy it in bulk and fill up a spice shaker.

I think I first discovered some years ago when I read about keeping my digestive system cleaned out. These little seeds are fiber and it made sense in a visceral way to picture them as little ‘scrubbers’ for my intestinal walls.

Only later did I get into the fact that flax is a good source of Omega 3 oils. When I started avoiding seafood – due to mercury issues, over-fishing, etc. – I decided flax was a good substitute to seafood. This conceptmay or may not be true. I know that I am now taking Michael Pollan’s advice. From Boing Boing Pollan's
In Defense of Food is a fascinating treatise on eating and food, taking as its central tenet, "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much," and cutting through all the "nutritionism" science that proposes to feed us on individual molecules instead of whole food. Link

This is such refreshing news. We don’t have to be chemists.

A neighbor asked me recently to search the internet for online courses he could take for some kind of nutritionist certification. After searching for a bit I realized I couldn’t help him. I just couldn’t get behind this older guy spending money to be a part of the big lie of the American food industry. I do think the educational component is complicit or this nonsense would have been exposed decades ago.

Back to flax. . . This may sound dumb, but I love the fax seed because it is so iconic. I looks like what a seed should look like in a dictionary or something. It is the perfect shape and size for what my brain pictures when the word seed is spoken or read. Now that’s just crazy talk.

Chile Chews is a gold mine of information about flax. Anyone who reads Chile knows. But, for those who don’t I want to spell out the clear direction she gives daily.

As I've mentioned before, I use flax in place of eggs in my vegan baking and even in homemade pasta. To make flax seed "eggs", I just grind 1/3 cup of flax seeds in the blender until pulverized, add 1 cup of water and blend on high speed until the mixture thickens. Doing this in the hand-cranked Vortex blender is a great arm workout! Three tablespoons of this glop in place of each egg works wonderfully in pancakes, muffins, cookies, and quick breads. It keeps about a week in the refrigerator in a jar.

Thanks Chile, for this link and this and this Missouri based link for flax growing, harvesting, milling and use. This is an incredibly versatile plant. It reminds me of Amaranth, Hemp and Mesquite, to name a few plants used for centuries and for a host of different uses.

But, as a design person I just want to give a shout for linseed oil, made from flax, from which linoleum, paints and other products historically central to the design and art community. I wonder if the Sam Flax Art Stores or simply Flax in San Francisco have some name connection to this humble seed?

Add to that the fabric makers, oh where are all of these skilled artisans when we need them? This flax plant is what linen is made of and has been used for thousands of years.

Right now my flax supply is not local. I think I will plant flax as well as the borrage seeds I am getting from Greenbean this week outside my fence along the road. I just stained the park fence yesterday in green. I think these naturally blue, edible flowers / plants will be perfect here.

I just need to clear the pine needles I let pile up for a season. I think I will also plant red snap beans as these are growing like crazy in my raised bed.

A whole parking area of edible flowers and plants sounds like a plan.

X157: Xianist Power Freak Elite

This morning five old white men spread out and cased my neighborhood before going door to door to peddle Jesus. It put me in a foul mood. I have reacted negatively in a strong way for most of my life, but today it may have been partly due to my writing this post.

The Family by Jeff Sharlet is reviewed by ZP Heller of Alternet in a piece titled The Family’s Values: America’s Most Influential (and Secretive) Religious Organization. This crowd uses the pretense of Christianity to play out fascist or worse schemes to influence governments around the world. But, there isn’t anything resembling Christ’s teaching in these practices.
"the Family's long-term project of a worldwide government under God is more ambitious than Al Qaeda's dream of a Sunni empire."
The National Prayer Breakfast, which every US pResident has presided over since its inception is just one example of how closely this group is entwined in US government. In fact, it was at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1993 that Hilary Clinton first became involved in the Family.
Even more startling than the Family's relationship with Clinton, however, is its support of brutal dictators. Not only did Family members in Congress push for the United States' proxy wars against the so-called threat of Communism, but they also reached out to some of the most ruthless mass murderers of the 20th century. Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier impressed Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee (Family members) so much that they pushed an alliance that offered foreign aid and sugar tariffs exemptions. Gen. Park Chung Hee of South Korea used the Family to channel illegal funds to Nixon's congressional candidates.

Perhaps most disturbingly, Coe personally helped Gen. Suharto of Indonesia create his own Indonesian National Prayer Breakfast to commemorate the decree by which Suharto took power and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Indonesians.

The dictator list goes on and on: Somalia's Siad Barre, Angola's Jonas Savimbi; Brazil's Costa e Silva, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni. In defending his friendships with these dictators, Coe said in 1997, "They come to me. And I do what Jesus did: I don't turn my back to any one. You know, the Bible is full of mass murderers." [snip]

And it was Suharto's Family connections that garnered him President Ford's blessing (and U.S. bullets) for seizing East Timor and slaughtering hundreds of thousands in 1975.
I learned more about the Family from Sharlet being interviewed by Lindsay Beyerstein who posts at AlterNet, but also has a blog named Majikthise.
The Family was founded 70 years ago by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant evangelist based in Seattle. In 1935, Vereide said, God appeared to him in a vision and revealed where Christianity had gone wrong: preoccupation with the poor, the weak and the suffering. [snip]

His new plan was to target men who were already powerful and turn them to God -- and wouldn't you know it, God hated unions, too.
Through personal relationships and small group encounters, Vereide united captains of industry and politicians as a Biblical bulwark against the increasing power of organized labor.

In the late 1940s, the Family helped roll back key pro-labor provisions of the New Deal. Later, the Family did its part for the Cold War by cultivating anti-communist strongmen around the world, including repressive leaders like Suharto of Indonesia and Jonas Savimbi of Angola.
The interview itself is filled with tidbits like this:

Lindsay Beyerstein: What did the Family have to do with a B-movie called "The Blob"?

Jeff Sharlet: The best illustration of the Family's involvement in the Cold War was something that I stumbled on by accident: The 1958 film "The Blob." It began at the 1957 National Prayer Breakfast. "The Blob" was a famous horror movie that was a metaphor for Communism. This is their imagination of how Communism spread. At the time, the American imagination couldn't grasp ideology, so it had to be an actual goo that globs more and more people and grows and becomes expansive. As I recall, they have to blow up the town at the end. The logic of "The Blob" is that we must destroy the village in order to save it. That's the logic of Vietnam. [snip]

It's just as true now, when I look at what the Family does today in the Central Asian Republic. The 1999 Silk Road Strategy Act, sponsored by Sam Brownback, and Rep. Joe Pitts renewed it in 2006. Combat militant Islam in Central Asia by pouring American aid into dictatorial regimes. This same kind of top-down aid.
The empire that is America is ugly when explosed. Democracy has barely been an experiment and daily we are seeing what is still there being eroded.
Lindsay Beyerstein: In "The Family," a lot of subjects explicitly state their admiration for Hitler and other authoritarian political figures. How much of that is admiring their style, and how much is admiring their substance?

Jeff Sharlet: I'd argue that there isn't a hell of a lot of difference. I spent a lot of time living with thes e guys, and I remember at one point asking them, "What's the deal with all this Hitler talk?" And they'd say, "Oh, it's not the ends, it's the means." But to most of us, the means seem pretty bad, too. The means are authoritarianism.
It's pretty close to the substance because it grows out of this very broad movement in the 1930s of elites concluding that democracy has run its course, that democracy was a temporary phase in world history. And so, these people were experimenting with all sorts of different alternatives. And remember, before World War II it was considered a perfectly legitimate and acceptable position to endorse fascism.
This interview, this book review is something that really affected me. The artifice, the façade of freedom, justice, happiness, health and good will that surround this culture while the citizenry and peoples around the world are under attack by an elite class that could care less that people are struggling, drowning and dying for someone else’s greed. And, I just want to slap those around me and say, snap out of it! Can't you see what is being done here?

W155: We’re Way, Way Behind

Saturday I read for hours about the UK Transition Towns. All of the information seems to be freely available. This movement is well under way with at least 50 towns involved and many 100’s more beginning across the UK and other countries. Never think that one individual can’t do much alone. Rob Hopkins speaking here for about an hour in an interview from the past.

And go hear a rousing song, The News, that is a joyous version of what this movement is about – IMHO. You will recognize the vocalist’s voice because Carbon/Silicon is the project of Mick Jones (formerly of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite) and Tony James (Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik). They make politically astute, current-sounding punkish rock, much of which is free to download from their website.

I have searched and googled for the blog where I first learned about Transition Towns. I remember distinctly a commenter praising the blogger for turning her on to the information about Transition Towns. I remember that I googled Transition Towns and got a WIKI link and scanned the concepts and downloaded the Transition Initiatives Primer pdf here.

Well, I sat on this for a few days and proceeded to forget my source, but didn’t forget to go back to this primer and read it. This is the most fruitful document I have come across this year. I am not done with this movement.

H/t to Ethicurean: Chew the Right Thing for the music link.

W154: Water Pump

Here is another low tech design in a water pump that is transforming lives. I saw this one on Link TV as well as here at Inhabitat’s project H. You can’t see well in the picture, but the device has 2 foot pads that one steps on to pump. The action is much like gym equipment, stepper, with a purpose.
Kickstart, an organization promoting tools and technologies to end poverty, has found a great product that solves immediate problems and stimulates potential local economies. It’s called the MoneyMaker Micro-Irrigation Pump, available as the Original design or the new Super pump, and it allows rural small-scale farmers to pull water from underground to more efficiently irrigate their farms. Many thousands of entrepreneurial farmers are now irrigating with Kickstart’s manual irrigation pumps and changing their small subsistence farms into vibrant new commercial enterprises. With irrigation they can grow and sell as many as three to four high value vegetable crops every year, and ensure that the crop is ready for market when the price is high. The pump is currently being distributed throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
I think all of these simple inventions lend themselves to a post-oil life in developed countries as well. This scenario of one’s own pump for one’s own garden (individual or community) beats the fuck out of buying water from a rich guy (is adding 'white' redundant?) with a 6 billion dollar wind farm and water rights to an entire aquifer across half a dozen states. That is the horror story No Impact Man wrote about this week.

But back to the manual irrigation pump.
The Statistics:
  • 45,000 pumps currently in use by poor farmers
  • 29,000 new waged jobs created
  • $39 million per year in new profits and wages generated by the pump
  • More than 50% of the pumps managed by women
  • 4 manufacturers producing the pumps
  • Over 400 retailers selling pumps in Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania

This is a fantastic way to donate a few dollars and help a family with a very tangible item of need.

I wrote about a design I was musing about for myself in the comments yesterday.

In my own mind I daydreamed about capturing the greywater from my home, filtering it, diverting it to a leaching tank with plants and then some sort of exercise bike or stepper that would pump it up to a roof - a green roof. Would that be cool or what?

Although I’d forgotten how this actually worked, I believe this was what triggered the idea.

W153: Water Pump Playing

I have written about Project H from Inhabitat before, with the Hippo water roller. Here is yet another wonderful design concept I found on the Inhabitat site.

Combine a potable water system with the unlimited energy of children at play, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success. Playpumps International is a non-profit that has designed and successfully implemented more than 900 Playpump systems in South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia benefiting approximately two million people. The system is simple, using the movement of children at play to pump water from underground, up to a tower (which doubles as a billboard for public health announcements), and down to a publicly-available faucet.

I have problems with the annoying music, the billboards and more . . . but perfect solutions are not what thrill me right now. I am just happy solutions are being offered for the problems around the globe. This one is fun.

W152: Women Want

Feminists long for men to heal. Those of us whose lives continue to be bound up with men want to see them become whole. We dream of a world full of men who could be passionate lovers, grounded in their own bodies, capable of profound loves and deep sorrows, strong allies of women, sensitive nurturers, fearless defenders of all people’s liberation, unbound by stifling conventions yet respectful of their own and others’ boundaries, serious without being humourless, stable without being dull, disciplined without being rigid, sweet without being spineless, proud without being insufferably egotistical, fierce without being violent, wild without being, well, assholes.”

- Starhawk, “A Men’s Movement I Can Trust”

W151: Weeds

This week I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market. I did weed much of the front garden though.

Okay, confession. I tossed the dandelion weeds in the compost last Thursday. Then, I couldn’t stop thinking about what a spectacular waste that was. Instead, I bought local dandelion weeds at the grocery carrying local organic produce.

While seaching for a recipe like my Lebanese mother in law used to fix I came across a fascinating website of an herbalist. She devoted a week this spring to dandelions. I want to include the first a bits of the others. But, though I wasted the weeds in my garden, I don’t want to also be a thief. Please visit this fascinating site, the Herbwife’s Kitchen where she begins the week with this definition:

Dandelion week: history of the little lion’s tooth.

May 10, 2007 at 11:02 am • Filed under Dandelion
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been used medicinally for as long as people have bothered to write about such things. It might be native to the Middle East (but no one’s really sure) and it’s traveled to just about every corner of the temperate world by now. [snip]

Medieval Latin from Arabic, ultimately Persian. The Synonymia Arabo-Latina of Gerard of Cremona (died 1189) has ‘Tarasacon, species cichorei’. This appears to have been a corruption or misreading of the Arabic name tarakhshaqoq or tarkhshaqoq, itself according to the Burhan-i-Kati (native Persian lexicon), originally an arabicized form of the Persian talkh chakok ‘bitter herb’.

Dandelion is of course from the French “lion’s tooth” (dent de lion), but these days the French just call it pissenlit, “piss-the-bed”—which also happens to be an old-time English name for the plant. In 1565 John Hall wrote in his Courte of Vertu, “Lyons tooth, That Chyldren call Pysbed.” (OED entry for pissabed.)

Pissabed. Remember that. It’s a pretty good first clue to how dandelion works.

Ha! Since I just joined Crunchy Chicken’s Golden Showers Garden Party, and last night I saved my ‘night water’ to dilute this morning 1:10 with tap water for my own nitrogen factory experiment, I find the perfect food = dandelion.

Well, I didn’t find a recipe that made me think of Sitto (grandma in a kind of Arabic), so I just tossed it in my salad mix, which included radishes and spinach from my own garden. I also made a hot dish using bok choy, onion and garlic. I seasoned this dish of greens with salt, pepper and soy sauce. It was delicious over a baked sweet potato. I made enough for two meals, so I get that again today.

What I am craving is a dandelion frittata. The thing is I don’t have cheese. I may have to just call it an omelet, but this picture from tiny banquet is so mouth watering, right?

I have decided to make that dish again and serve it with lentil stew and a yogurt side dish. I am onto something here with the mild bok choy and the sharp, peppery dandelion combination. Maybe lots more of this, especially with the soy sauce, will help me with my recent cravings for salt in snack form. Crapilicious stuff.

Dandelion diagram

W150: Waste Waste Basket

I’m not stuttering, that isn’t a typo – it just cracks me up to think of using waste to hold waste. I wrote last month about trash dummy. Well this waste basket is a project for later, but damn it, I want to blog about it now because I had a long encouraging chat with a neighbor last evening about waste. (More on that later).

Now I am in the middle of my challenge to begin my dawn and sunset routines, to get me out of procrastination. I am in my baby steps with this re-animation katecontinued make-a-(green)plan life challenge. There’s nothing new here folks. This is what we all do when we get off on side tangents, back roads, entropy or simply a seasonal fugue.

Well, I made a project planning outline for myself last month wherein I will do spring cleaning and complete current projects by the 4th of July. Following that phase that I think of as clearing the decks I have the last half of this year to completely purge. Along with that process I have a few new project ideas about making use of things I own.

I have lost the spot where I first viewed this last spring, but it led to the original craft site with crafter’s own how-to information via the frequently asked questions.
Thanks everyone! Glad you all like it. Now for a little FAQ...
How long did it take you?
A freakin' long time. I started it on Monday and worked on it for a couple of hours a day until last night. I'd say it took at least six to eight hours, probably more than that. I set up a little work space in the living room so I could watch crappy reality TV while I worked on it. I think that kept me from going insane.

Did you seal/protect it with anything?
I sealed the whole thing with Mod Podge. I still might give it a coat of polyurethane.

It's easier than it looks! The base uses the same technique one would use to make a magazine bowl, only instead of shaping it into a bowl you leave it flat and coat the whole thing with Mod Podge. For the rings you cut magazine pages into thirds and, starting at one corner, roll the pieces around a bamboo skewer (or a pencil or other similar object). Brush a little dab of glue on the opposite corner and seal it up to make a thin paper straw. Then flatten out the straw and coil it around your finger to make a ring, gluing down the tail. Repeat about 399 times and hot glue them on top of each other in a shape you like, and seal with Mod Podge. Hope that makes sense.

How strong/durable is it?
It's sturdy enough to function as a trash can. It wouldn't take much to destroy it if you tried, but I wouldn't try if I were you, at least not in my house.
Have you tried doing it with just a few colors like a pattern or something?
I haven't but that might be cool, maybe with some patterned paper. I like the random, colorful look of the magazines though.

Well, I have stacks and stacks of design magazines to purge. I have scheduled purging all my books and magazine the last week of September. By then I hope I have become completely at ease with not being in front of a screen for hours and hours at a time. I also suspect I could sell these or give them as gifts if were able to produce more than one.

Now I will put it aside for a season and turn to the tasks at hand. The neighbor who came to my door last night needed me to throw her rotten vegetables from a half dozen plastic bags into the composter. She had ventured out of her little lavender home to the compost bin by the garden, but just couldn’t abide the idea of lifting the lid and having fruit flies around her face. *sigh*

I was happy to dump the slimy vegetables for her and commiserated about the guilt of letting food go off. When we talked of waste I shared my stories of no plastic bags from the grocery store due to taking my homemade produce / bulk food bags and laundry basket. She was intrigued, but she was adamant she had to have plastic liners. I explained I put all wet waste into a glass (or metal or plastic) container with a lid until dumping in my wormery. My paper, metal or glass recycle stuff didn’t need a liner though I think papers in bottom catch in water droplets from washing out cans, bottles. And, I told her about my Trash Dummy for all of the plastic that I think I am keeping out of my house. *sigh* I want to see how much it expands trash dummy rather than simply weighing or recording it.

We ended our conversation with my telling her to just observe herself and play around with ideas, confessing it took a year for me to figure out some of my basic strategies that now seem so simple. I reminded her that we have been habituated by advertisements to think we must have countless products that are just not necessary; e.g., paper towels, plastic bags and shampoo. Well, the shampoo reaction will wait. The woman was so intrigued. She came by not long after with bags of fresh vegetable to share with me.

Maybe I could make her a waste waste basket this fall? Oh, and did I mention I am not very fond of crafts or cutesy stuff? For some reason this waste waste basket is appealing to me.