Saturday, December 01, 2007

Little Coincidences

As I'm sure I have mentioned, the day job isn't so thrilling,
but I joined "linkedin" (social networking for
professionals) and it allows you to auto-connect to
anyone in your address book who is already in the
network. I went ahead and did that after randomly
stumbling onto the site the other day, and there were
many connections that had been neglected for a long
time that then got an auto-email from me.

One of those was a former donor to the ecocenter. He
now works for a company called principle energy. I
had discussed with him about a year ago the
possibility of doing some writing and web development
for the company, but nothing ever came of it. When he
got my linkedin connection, he wrote to me to say
he'd been busy traveling for the new job, but that
there was still opportunity to write/work for them,
and we are going to meet up in a couple weeks. So,
the reason I thought of you was that in addition to the
funny string of coincidences, the company (principle
energy) is also a biofuels company.

So, this is the only thing I found on "principle
energy." But I sang karaoke last night and the host
made up crazy biographies for everyone as he was
calling them up to sing. My story was that I was from
Mozambique (didn't speak English, and was singing
phonetically). Kinda funny, all the little
coincidences surrounding me these days. I finally
feel like I'm re-connected to the golden thread of

Friday, November 30, 2007

How to Make Bath Salts

Bath salts are very easy to make, and can be made with either Epsom salts or sea salts.

Epsom salt are basically manufactured sea salt. Sea salt has many different minerals, and varies depending on which sea it comes form. Epsom salt is standardized, made in lab, and much cheaper, but has less soul than sea salt. Epsom salts are created specifically to help alleviate sore and achy muscles. Sea salts have differing medicinal properties due to the various mineral content. Sea salt has more lore attached to it, but also costs many times more than Epsom salts. I often mix them together, for the healing benefits of both.

You can make bath salts or salt scrubs, very different things. (Well, okay, only a little bit different.)

Bath salts with herbs - fill jar 3/4 to 7/8 full with salt, pour into bowl, mix in dried herbs, put back in jar; use in hot bath. You can use green tea, chamomile, rose, lavender, or many other dried herbs. You should give these away in small sachets (think about buying paper or cloth tea bags for loose tea leaves) so that the herbs won't get stuck in the drain. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind the herbs so they can go down the drain.

Bath salts with essential oils - fill jar 3/4 full with salt, add a few drops of essential oils (and optional few drops of base oil), shut lid and shake VERY WELL, top off with salt if desired; use in hot bath. Essential oils are extracted from various plants and plant parts. Be sure to use only the highest quality, pure oils. Many oils are made synthetically in a lab, but they are slightly chemically different than the real stuff and can be harmful or irritating.

Salt scrub - fill jar almost full with salt, fill rest of the way with oil, add a few drops of essential oils, shake well; for use as scrub in shower.

Sugar scrub - fill jar almost full with sugar, fill rest of the way with oil, add a few drops of essential oils, shake well; for use as scrub in shower.

Sugar has naturally occurring alpha-hydroxy acids, which will help to dissolve dead skin cells. They are very weak acids, so they won't irritate most people's skin, but use in moderation or on a small area first to make sure they don't cause a reaction.

Water Filtering Roads

So if you have ever been to a wastewater treatment plant, the system at one point goes through what is basically a giant brita filter.

It usually goes into a big pond where they let the biggest chunks settle out and/or float to the top, then they skim both top and bottom, and then chemical treat it, and then it goes to the giant brita filter.

I couldn't find a very good picture online, but here is something kinda close:

Except it starts with the largest rocks on the top layer, and goes smaller and smaller through gravel until it gets to charcoal. Well, a road could be made like that. Large rock/gravel on top, but with a porous cover over it so it isn't like driving on a dirt road, but then through the porous cover and then through the various layers of filtering rocks.

It wouldn't do for freeways, obviously, and probably not even major city streets, but all neighborhoods could have roads like this, and even larger roads could have shoulders like this. They could also potentially filter into the water run off pipes that already exist, but the water would be filtered before it got channeled out to our lakes/rivers/streams/oceans.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I saw that the YMCA was going to remain open most of the week, with limited hours on some days. While I have mixed feelings about this (on one hand I think they should be closed, on the other I was glad to have ap lace to get a little exercise), I decided to go in. I tried to go to a pilates or yoga class, but they were all canceled. I was understanding, after all, it is a disaster zone. But a woman came in behind me, freaking out that the class was canceled and bitching at the people behind the counter, asking them why they didn't tell her that when she called. I pointed out the fact that we are in the middle of a major fire, and that maybe it was time to be a little extra understanding. She wavered back and forth between agreeing with me, telling me "Don't tell me what to do," continuing to bitch about the situation, and defending herself. She told me she had canceled an appointment because they told her the class was happening, and if she knew she could have brought her tennis shoes like I did. (She would not have done both in reality, because she wouldn't have canceled her appointment.) I just re-emphasized that it was a time for understanding, and walked away. Can people not gain perspective for one week? I have certainly been a bitch with no justification, and I have rushed and cut people off on my way to yoga class, and I have done many other assinine and inconsiderate and self-centered things in my life. But yesterday, I did a little yoga on my own, and then used the elliptical machine. I was very appreciative that these people still came to work, so that I could exercise in a clean air facility.


In high school I once saw a girl drop some money. I picked it up and took it, and then I saw that her friend saw me and told the girl who dropped it. She never approached me, and at the time I probably would have said "Finders, keepers." But now I think it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. So, I could write about it comparing the finders-keepers moral to be-a-good-neighbor moral. It becomes moral because you could make an argument that finders-keepers is an appropriate action, but everyone did that the world would be a terrible place. I actually think about this single act more than I do about the shoplifting I did during that same “bad phase” in high school.

Or even something that comes to mind - investing. I invest some of my money in socially conscious mutual funds, but not all. Marshall and I had a discussion last night. He was like "Why do you invest? To feel good about yourself? Or to make money?" We did end up having good discussion, because it is important to support things like that IMO, but you wouldn't want to put all your money in them because they don't always do as well as other stocks, but then I feel bad about even having mutual funds with Halliburton in them, and I probably do. Yet I wouldn't ever buy Halliburton stock directly. So what is moral? Should I put all my money in hippie-funds, or put it all in Halliburton, Wal-Mart, and DeBeers stocks? Obviously, both are extreme, and I am somewhere in the middle, and a small percent of money in conscious funds can just be part of diversification. But is it moral?

Actually, everything is moral. Turning of the water while you brush teeth is a moral act, just as not turning it off is. Taking a long commute by car, or taking the time to bike and train.

After the Fires

So, apparently everyone has been at work all week. So strange. I feel like people should be at home, a sort of mass contemplation. But no, I see UCSD students partying and getting drunk beneath the smoky skies, and everyone going to work like normal, or even extra agitated because of the stress and feeling like they are important, and people just generally taking the opportunity to party and go out to eat and go shopping because they don't have to work. It's disturbing. No sense of conservation, in any meaning of the word. No effort to reduce car pollution since smoke pollution is way up, no effort to conserve energy since firefighters are using lots, no effort to conserve water since the fire efforts need it. IT truly disturbs me.

But on he other hand, life does go on, and I know that. I guess I just feel like if you are taking off work, use it to get some perspective. It’s not spring break. And if you aren't off work, then have a little reverence, even as you work, buy groceries, or whatever. I am still going to Portland this weekend. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don't know. But I will be glad to have some fresh air. The smoke is bothering my throat and eyes, and probably lungs.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Name Game

What I wish is that all children in our country would be named with a hyphenated name, from both of their parents. Then when they marry, the women keep their maternal name, and the men keep their paternal name, and then, they, too, hyphenate with a new combination. It is both equal and clear.

In this world I would have been Alegra Marcel Shrock-Bartzat. When I marry I would become Alegra Marcel Shrock-Loewenstien. Marshall would become Marshall Alan Loewenstein-Bartzat. Girl children would be Shrock-Loewenstein, and when the girls marry they would be Shrock-husdandslastname. The boys would be Loewenstein-Shrock, and when the boys marry they would be Loewenstein-Wifeslastname.

The arrangemnet could be different, but I like my way because it maintains both maternal and paternal lines very clearly and equally; even if arrangement changed it would have to be standardized to prevent confusion. Yes you could argue that the reversal is confusing (shrock-loewenstein AND loewenstein-shrock !?!?!), but if you were used to it, it simply would not be an issue.

FYI, in Costa Rica they all kids have hyphenated name, one name from each parent. The only thing is that only the paternal names are passed on, which is, of course, still problematic.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Surprising Family Ties

Rattle Snake Families

Young rattlers leave their mothers at just a few weeks old, but when it’s time to hibernate in the winter, they follow their mother’s scent trail and use the same den. Future generations will also use the same den—some have been used for over 100 years.

Plant Siblings

According to a new study in Biology Letters, plants respond competitively when forced to share their pot with strangers of the same species, but when placed in a pot with their siblings are more accomodating. "Siblings were less competitive than strangers, which is consistent with kin selection," the study reports.

Friday, July 13, 2007

On Fears

The concept of fear is often considered something to be abolished from our lives, something only for the weak-minded. However, this book reckons that fear is part of our transformational journey, and that addressing those fears in various ways (through the various archetypes) is ultimately the only way we grow.

From The Hero Within:

Unless we fear hunger, want, isolation, and despair, how will we ever learn to confront our fears? We are not ready for abundance, for a safe universe, until we have proven ourselves – to ourselves – by taking our journeys. It does not matter how many people love us, how much wealth we have at our disposal; we will attract problems and we will feel alone and poor as long as we need to. … Ultimately, there is no way to avoid the hero’s quest. It comes and finds us if we do not move out bravely to meet it. And while we may strive to avoid the pain, hardship, and struggle it inevitably brings, life takes us eventually to the promised land, where we can be genuinely prosperous, loving, and happy. The only way out is through.

What is currently your biggest fear? Can you think of fears you held in the past that you have let go of or moved through? Are all of these fears truly your own? Or were some of them created by the media or projected onto you by others?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Hero Within

I have been reading the book “The Hero Within” by Carol Pearson. I will be creating “lessons” based on quotes, thoughts, and contemplations from or inspired by my readings in this book. It addresses archetypes we all identify with and learn from as we take our personal journey to becoming heroines. Becoming a hero is when you can identify with all the archetypes, and transition between them smoothly. Essentially taking on all the different roles life requires of us with equal competency. For me, heroinism is also about authenticity, and I will do my part to weave this ideal into the contemplations on our hero within.

From The Hero Within:

Heroism is a matter of integrity, of becoming more and more yourself at stage of your development. Paradoxically, there are archetypal patterns that govern the process each of us goes through to discover our own uniqueness, so we are always both very particularly ourselves and very much like one another in the stages of our journeys. In fact, there is a rather predictable sequence of human development presided over respectively by the archetypes of the Innocent, the Orphan, the Wanderer, the Warrior, the Martyr, and the Magician.

In your mind, do you recognize these archetypes from your personal history and experience with religion or spirituality? Do they make any connections for you?

We will be learning more about these archetypes this month, so for now, think about what each archetypes means to you right this moment.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A post completely stolen from an email from a friend

I would like to clarify a statement I made about my position on valuing my time and how and why I do it. "Dude, what is your time worth?" It is not a money thing at all.

When I was 25, I made like $20/hr. The guys that did things like change brake pads and landscape my yard would charge me more than double that. Additionally my time was "cheap" because I felt like I had lots of it. The big dirt nap was far, far off - 50 years away which might as well have been 1000 years away for as much connection as I had to it. I changed my own brake pads because it held intrinsic satisfaction for me since I am a gearhead and my time was "cheap" i.e. I had lots of it left in my life. The money piece of it confirmed that equation because I would have to work 3 of my hours to make enough money to pay for 1 hour of the guys that could do it for me so I would actually be decreasing my net output at that time by paying them to do it.

When I was 35, I made around $35/hr. The guys changing brake pads were only charging like 1-1/2 times that rate to do it for me. The dirt nap loomed closer but I still did not give it much thought. I worked many, many hours, up to 75/week for months at a time and so sometimes it made sense to hire out some of the more mundane tasks simply because I didn't have the time to do it after work. I wanted to spend what little time I had left after work with friends and family (looking back now I would say I didn't spend enough time with them although I had some great times with you and other friends in Laguna and in Irvine)

Now, approaching 45, I make somewhat more than what I have to pay the guys that change brake pads. I am feeling the dirt nap peaking around the corner at me, who knows, maybe as little as 15 years away (both my grandfathers passed by age 60). I have a lot of shit to get done before I meet my maker - traveling, raising a family, spending time with friends and family and maybe squeezing off one more major project, my Taj Mahal, my swan song. I don't want to spend 1/8 of a second of those 15 years changing brake pads or even thinking about changing brake pads. It is not in the top 10,000 things I want to do before I leave this rock - I am going to run out of time before I even complete 10% of my list. I can afford to pay someone else to change my brake pads while I do some of the many things that are on my to do list. In fact, I can afford to pay guys $20 - $25/hr to do many of the mundane tasks I don't want to include on the list on my headstone and still be way ahead. What's more, that is how I can multiply my output in my life. I will get a lot more done in the 15 years remaining by working and making the money I can make doing so and paying for as much other stuff as possible so I can spend more time doing the things that are really important in this life like spending time with my family and recreating. Life is not about working man!

Donald Trump doesn't even know the name of the guy that changes his brake pads. Well, he probably doesn't own a car long enough for the brake pads to wear out before he buys a new one, but he makes yooge money doing what he does best, developing real estate, and he buys everything else he needs or wants and still puts large stacks of casheesh in the bank. I, like the Donald and everybody else, whether they know it or not, use money to normalize the simultaneous set of equations that must be solved to tell me when to work and when to pay someone else to work - thus the phrase "what is my time worth". It is not a money thing at all, it is a balance thing. Balance work with play and family. I want to spend as much time on family/friends and play time as possible before I wind up in the obits.

So my point to you when I said "Change brake pads? Dude, what is your time worth?" is that you make way more per hour than what you have to pay the guys that change your brake pads, your pride is in tact since you have proven you can change pads having done it many times, and it probably isn't even that fun anymore, if it ever was for you. Make your money doing what you do so well, pay the knucklehead guy to change your brake pads and spend the afternoon with your girlfriend at the beach or on a bike ride or on a hike while he does it. You will be multiplying your output while increasing your life enjoyment. "Dude, what is your time worth?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spanish Moth

Here is a video from my time in Can Serrat last year. It is a video of a moth that I swear I though was a hummingbird the first 74 times I saw it. It loved this flowering bush on the side of the house.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cornstarch Aliens

In this 2:44 long video, you will watch some interesting physcis of cornstarch. And then the aliens appear.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Being an eco-tourist in a miniature Alice in Wonderland

I just watched this video about gut microbes in termites. It is really fantastic.

You get to see how these bacteria and microbes live inside the gut of termites. Of course I have heard about the fact that termites don't actually digest wood - the microbes in their gut digest them. But there are so many kinds of microbes swimming around in there!

It makes me think about all the secret worlds that surround us, everywehre. What kind of bacteria nad microbes are living inside of our own guts, unbeknownst to us? How many do we need to survive?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why invasive species are bad

Invasive species are responsible for:

Increasing the intensity, frequency, and size of wildfires
Altering soil chemistry and nutrient levels
Lowering water tables
Altering rates of sedimentation and erosion
Displacing or outcompeting native plant species
Degrading or eliminating habitat for native animals and organisms
Providing habitat for undesireable non-native animals and organisms
Posing a serious threat to native wildlife by upsetting delicate food webs

See a directory of North American pests here.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I realize that I have posted several sarcastic posts in a row. I'm going to stop.

How to Use A Diet Club to Market Your Network Marketing Company's Weight Loss Products

Wow, just what I've always wanted, I clicked on "next blog" from my blogger account, which (as far as I can tell) takes one randomly to another blog, and I found this fascinating article that can be published freely as long as one includes the full author info in the last paragraph.

I thought it went very well with A Buyer's Guide to America's best Selling Diet Pills. Maybe the pharmaceautical companies can start hosting diet clubs. Or maybe the MLM scammers can start a consortium to advertise their products.

------------------ ARTICLE START ------------------

How to Use A Diet Club to Market Your Network Marketing Company's Weight Loss Products

It seems that, everywhere you look, everyone is trying to lose weight. If you are in a network marketing company that has a weight loss product line, you have a huge, hot, and hungry market that you can sell to.

One of the easiest marketing strategies that you can implement is starting a diet club in your town. Here are tips to get your diet club started off right.

1. Host a diet club in your home. If you cannot do it, one of your friends, family members, or colleagues may be willing to be the host, especially when you offer them free samples of your network marketing's company's weight loss product.

2. The host will need to invite six or more people to your diet club. The invitations can look something like this:

"Your Dieting Days are Over!"

The problem with diets is that, whenever you go on a diet, eventually you have to get off the diet. What usually happens? The weight returns.

*Drink a shake. Lose weight! Eat a cookie. Lose weight! Try these and other fun and easy ways to lose weight!

*Never be hungry! (that's better than willpower!)

*Enjoy great tasting cookies between meals!

*Lose weight and keep it off!

Come to our diet club kick off! Meet new friends, bring your favorite dish and recipe, and lose weight while snacking with us!

Fun! Healthy! Plus it all tastes so good!

Tuesday, April 18th, 150 broad Avenue, Winchester, VA

3. Purchase a scale so that you will have one for the official "weigh-in".

4. Plan to have your diet club meet on the same day and time every week. Every member will need to weigh in each week. The member who loses the most weight will get to keep the special "Weight Loss Trophy" for the week. You will need to remind them to bring it back for the next group meeting's winner. When you do it like this, you will only need to purchase one trophy.

5. The member that loses the least amount of weight or gains the most gets a booby prize. This can be anything, such as an embarrassing poster they have to put on their refrigerator for the week. Get creative! Whoever gets the booby prize will need to bring it back to the next meeting so that the new winner can receive it.

6. After the weigh-in, trophy, and booby prize awards, give your diet club members a tip or two about proper eating and dieting. Share with them how your weight loss product can help them meet their goals.

7. Lastly, socialize! Share recipes, give out cookies, shakes, or whatever weight loss product your network marketing company promotes. Dig into the delicious dishes that members bring. Overall, just enjoy the fellowship and then repeat next week!

That's it! This is all it takes to start your own diet club in your hometown. Your members will appreciate your efforts, and it's highly likely you will get lots of orders for your weight loss products! So, get going with your first diet club today!

Monique's Hawkins is a retail representative for a network marketing company. She believes failing in network marketing is NOT your fault. To discover how to end years of failure and frustration with MLM, visit

------------------ ARTICLE END ------------------

I especially love how they give out a booby prize to chastize the "loser" who loses the least. And of course focusing a on a weekly weigh-in has got to be good for the self-esteem. Especially conisdering that muscle weighs more than fat and that if yo uare actually toning muscle you may not be "losing weight," even though you could easily be losing fat. So healthy. And, of course, I love that they market cookies as a weight loss tool.

I'd like to just take a moemnt to state that, ultimately, there is only one diet: eat less, exercise more. However you reach that equilibrium can be different, and different approaches work better for different people, but when it comes down to it, that's the only way to become more fit.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

On shit

Sometimes when I'm sad or upset my mom says, 90% of
life is just trying to swim thorugh a river of shit
and keep your head above the river, but the other 10% make
it worth it.

Actually, I think she just said that once, but it
stuck with me.

And I think it's actually probably less than 90%,
closer to 50%, but the shit river comes in waves, so
sometimes it's all shit and you can't keep your head
above it.

Another friend once said, every day you have to eat a
shit sandwich, and if you miss a day, it just means
you have make it up later.

Yeah, so life is full of shit. But shit is just a
small part of life.

I considered taking a picture of a shit in the toilet
and posting it here, but I decided it was already
a little edgy for me to be talking about shit in my
blog. I generally try to make it all-ages.

Besides, it's really kind of sick to take
a picture of your shit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A buyer's guide to America's best-selling diet pills.

On the second page of this two page ad the reader gets a description of all the "best-selling" diet pills. They might as well just call them the "most popular" or say "everyone is doing it." The first page imbeds the idea that "Everybody wants to lose weight," and here they give you so many ways to do it, none of them requiring effort, thought, or consideration!

The first one says "Eat all you want and still lose weight?" Though it implies that readers of this ad can continue to eat fast food six times a day, that is not actually how this pill works. No, you take this pill before you eat, and then you don't want to eat!

Then there is the "Belly Fat" pill, which is cross promoted here also as a "feel good" pill because it reduces stress. Fantastic! I can be skinny and happy, with just one pill. Of course, if you become skinny you will also become happy, right?

Then they outline the pill for those who are "significantly overweight" and caution that this pill is only for those who are truly obese. Of course it costs $153 a bottle so it "is much too expensive and much too powerful for the casual dieter." I find this particularly disturbing because they act like they are cautioning the reader here, implying that this ad wouldn't lead readers astray. Whoever is paying for his ad just wants to help readers find "the right" diet pill.

Or two. Becuase in the pink box they explain how celebrities like to "combine two or more diet pills" to lose weight super-fast. They flat-out explain the upper-downer cycle: "One pill picks you up, the other pill calms you down...both of them help you lose weight...but together, oh my goodness!" But don't worry, they let you konw that the makers of the drugs do not condone combo-pilling. Okay, but what about doctors? They don't bother to note that many people who combo-pill (celebs or not) go to multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions.

As you can see, this ad is absolutley creepy and conniving. It never says who has paid for it, and all of the pills are from different manufacturers. It must be some kind of consortium. This adds to the disturbing factor because again it could appear that it was written by an unbiased third party. It makes me sick to think about someone who doesn't have good critical thinking skills and who suffers from low body image or self esteem. They would be on the phone to their doctor immediately to get the cure to all their problems.

But don't worry, if you're not a pill person, they've thrown in a "slimming gel" for good measure. "You can even apply [Tummy Flattening Gel] to your double chin."

Everybody wants to lose weight

...but which "diet pill" is right for you?

Okay, so I found this very disturbing ad in a recent issue of some garbage pop-star magazine. Why I was reading such a piece of trash is another story, which I'd rather not have on the record.

Anyway, I come across this double page ad. First of all, I generally hate the ads that try to look like articles published by the magazine. And I also wonder if anyone doesn't motice the "Advertisement" typed in tiny font at the top... some people must not.

This ad starts off assuming that "everybody wants to lose weight." This is problematic becuase it's not true, but also becuase it implies that if you don't want to lose weight there is something wrong with you. The last portion of this title/sentence then goes on to imply/assume that everyone wants to lose weight by taking diet pills. I know I just wrote a what is wrong with our society, but I think I've changed my mind. The addiction to "mircale pills" for all our problems is really what is wrong with our society.

Also, the girl on this page isn't fat. In fact, it just looks like they slightly distorted the picture of a normal and thin girl so she looks a little wider, not fat, just distorted. So here we again see the idea being planted into people's heads that even normal thin people need to lose weight.

The timing of this ad couldn't have been better, either. The feature article of this issue was celebrity cellulite. Now, I have heard of this before. It is actually a common complaint about magazines targeted twoards female audiences; there seems to be more behind the secne deals regarding advertisers only buying space if the magazine will run an article along the same lines. "We are the biggest consumer society on the face of the earth, and advertisers often apply tremendous pressure to the media to adapt content."

Let me just also mention that they use ellipses three times in the first paragraph!

But the creepiest thing of all about this advertisement is that it doesn't say who has paid for it! Read "A buyer's guide to America's best-selling diet pills" to learn more about this disturbing ad.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

what is wrong with our society

Today I went for a run along the PB-MB boardwalk. As I was crossing over to the bay side, near the roller coaster, I saw a cop hassling a homeless man. The man had a cane and a guitar and the cop had taken both of them away from him, and was making him cross the sidewalk without his cane. The man was elderly, and life had certainly been hard on him. He really did need that cane.

I was paused, not knowing what to do. The man said, "Hey! This cop is picking on me!" I acknowledged him with a compassionate look, yet I didn't speak up. I don't know why the cop was hassling him. I suspect it was some kind of panhanlding law, that the homeless man was playing guitar for money.

When the crosswalk turned green, I went on. But I felt really wretched about it. I cried for several mintes as I ran. I was overcome by compassion for this man whose life had clearly been so hard and who doesn't have any options and gets hassled for existing. I was also disappointed in myself for not speaking up. Not even disappointed - disgusted. In that moment my non-action represented so much of what is wrong with our society. I should have at least asked the cop why the man was being stopped.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lemon Stealing Neighbors

The other day I was walking to my bedroom from the bathroom after just having taken a shower, when I see a man lurking around my yard. My home and yard are set a bit differently than most, making this occurance both more possible and more disturbing. First of all, the house is rather dark and gets very little direct sunlight. There is a sort of enclosed pation in the center of the house, which can not be seen form the street or the neighboring houses. So, there are no curtains or other type of shades on the windows that look into this patio. Hence, if there is someone in my yard, they can see right in.

The other odd thing about the house is that there really isn't a back yard. The yard is rather large, but it's all in the front. There is a wall that goes around a lare portion of the ayrd. To me and my family, this wall designates public sapce from private space. Outside the wall is open to the neighbors and filled with decorative plants species; inside the wall is a more private, secured area and has mostly fruit trees and vegetable gardens. It is, in spirit, our backyard.

Now, at the time I saw the man lurking in my front-backyard, I didn't have any clothes on, so the alarm I would normally feel was heightened. I hid in the hallway and peeked out the window and patio to see who this person was. Well, lo-and-behold, it was my neighbor. He had come to take a few lemons off my tree.

Now, taking a few lemons and here there really isn't a problem. During peak seasons I give them away by the bagful. The issue here really isn't about the lemons. The issue is my privacy and respect for property that doesn't belong to him.

So, now I was in a predicament.He had behaved innapropriately, yet I was the one who had to deal with it. I have mentioned neighborly isuses to him before and he has responded by blowing them off. Nothing major. But these neighbors are a certain type of people. I don't know how to describe it, but I strongly suspected that if I went and approached them about, they would suddenly see me as the bad guy here. They are like the guy with TB who says "Oh poor me, I would never wish this on anyone," but in the mean time he has exposed hundred of people in his selfish and egocentric antics.

Anyway, here are my options, in the order I thought of them:

1. March myself over, knock on the door and say to the man, "I saw you taking lemons off my tree, and I'd really appreciate it if you would ask before taking lemons next time." The problem here is that suddenl; I would be the "uptight bitch" and probably case neighborly drama that I really don't want.

2. March myself into their backyard and spend an afternoon in their pool. When they come home and ask me what I'm doing I'll just say, "Well, no one was using it, and I thoght neighbors shared. I mean, you help yourself to my lemons." This is not my style, though I wish it was.

3. Write a note to the man saying the same thing as #1. Same problems as #1, plus I will be seen as passive agressive.

4. Approach the man's wife, when the man is not home, saying "I saw your man taking lemons off my tree, and I'd really appreciate it if you would tell him to before taking lemons next time. Becuase, well, when he came over, I was just out of the shower, and I was naked, and I felt really uncomfortable." I could play the naked card, but it that's not relaly the issue.

5. Drop the part about saying I saw them, and just throw out randomly, "Hey, if you want some fruit here and there it's geenrally not a problem, but you need to be sure to ask first, uot of respect for my privacy."

6. Leave note that says the same as #5, with a couple of lemons.

So, I am thinking if I see them I wil use #5, but if not, then I'll go with #6. Since I hardly ever see them, it will probably be #6.

Friday, June 01, 2007

An Open Letter to Yahoo!

Dear Yahoo!,

I have had a Yahoo! email account for a very long time. Yahoo! was my first, and I am still using it. Other email addresses have come and gone (alegra@meowmail, alegra@mail.utexas, abartzat@mail.sdsu, alegra@sdecocenter). And even though I actually prefer the other addresses because they are my name, just my name, and nothing but my name, I have stuck with Yahoo! because I like consistency.

I like knowing that pretty much anyone from my past, from high school, college, graduate school, or any job, could contact me at any moment. It is easy to reach me, because my email address hasn't changed. Once in a while I still recieve an email from a long lost friend. And this is nice.

I also don't want to burden others with keeping up with incessently changing email addresses. When I get those "This is my new email address" emails, I rarely update my address book, becuase the sender usually sends them from the old email saying "Don't use this email address anymore." I understand; it's easier because that is where your addresses are saved. Yahoo!, you could save us all from the dilemmma by allowing us to to set up an additional Yahoo! Mail accounts for each Yahoo! profile.

I know that my address book, even my electronic address books, have a great number of expired email addresses. This is sad, especially when you think of someone and write to them to tell them you have thought of them, and the email bounces back. Most especially when you don't have their new address in there along with the old. Again, multiple email accounts within a single profile, and which would be checked at the same login would prevent this kind of problem; the old would be checked along with the new.

With the new advent of google email, or gmail, I feel pressure to change or update my email address. I already use google for their calendar. I also use blogger. I don't want google to be my end-all be-all. I don't like how google is taking over the internet. Neither does Silicon Valley.

I still use Yahoo! Yellow Pages to look up stores and restaurants. But I will admit, google maps is my go-to for mapping, beating out both Yahoo! and MapQuest. It's hard to resist google's powerful pull. Yahoo!, you can help us resist if you would suddenly offer such a useful service, which google hasn't yet thought of and offered.

I want to support Yahoo!, and other internet giants. I also enjoy having a long history of emails at my disposal, able to search out emails from my past on a whim, or for a purpose. So, Yahoo!, I urge you: Allow me to to set up an additional Yahoo! Mail accounts for my Yahoo! profile. Allow me to have both a new Yahoo! Mail account, and my old Yahoo! Mail account.

I understand this is a demanding request; I understand it will require larger servers and more providing power. But, if you spin it just right, and beat google to it, this could keep you in the running as internet's most important player.

The Biology of Running

Running is a great sport. I have been, at various times in my life, very into running, or not into running at all. I love that it takes no special equipment, and that you can do it anywhere. It is also a fairly amazing biological feat of coordination between many muscles, and between body and mind.

The major msucles involved in running include the quads, calves, and hamstrings, as well as the core muscles and hips.

Running is defined as having three phases, which repeat with each stride. The support phase is the time the foot is in contact with the earth. One foot touches the ground as the knee joint begins to flex. This is basically catching your body before you hit the ground. The body's center of gravity is typically above the point where the foot touches the ground. The primary muscles involved are the quadriceps.

The drive phase is the time the leg (that was previously supporting the body) extends behind the runner. This pushes the runner forward and somewhat upwards. In this way, the leg continues to support the body from falling to the ground, but also propels the runner. The primary muscles involved are the quadriceps and various calf muscles.

During the recovery phase the foot loses touch with the ground and returns to the front of the body, where it will re-enter the support phase. In this way, each leg and foot is in a constant cycle between these phases while a person is running. The primary muscles involved are the hip flexors; this is the least intensive portion of the cycle.

Though running is typically considered a lower body sport, significant upper body movement is required, and competitive runners naturally develop strong upper bodies. This is especially notable in sprinters, as the faster you run, the harder your upper body works to keep balance. Your arms move in opposition to your legs, moving backwards as the oppostie legs drive the body forward. This helps runners keep their balance and is a natural occurance.

Running also releases your bodies natural endorphins. With running (or any strenuous aerobic endurace excercise) your pituatary glands release these natural "feel good" hormones. While it may take a while for your body to adjust to the intense exercise that is running, I highly recommend it for a complete workout that will make your body and mind feel good!

Some Marathon Thoughts

A recent NY Times article addresses the change in attitude toward marathons in the past few years. While marathons were long thought to be unattainable for the average person, they are often now considered "the everyman's Everest."

I see that reflected in the world around me. I can name at least three friends, right off the top of my head, who have run a marathon. And now a fourth has come to mind, just as I write this. Maybe it's beacuse I have health-minded friends. Maybe it's because I live in health-minded California. But I think it is also becuase it's something people like to do nowadays. I have always said I wanted to run a marathon before I die. With the inspiration of friends and strangers all around me running marathons, many of them less athletically inclined than I (and I'm not so particularly athletic, compared to many others), I feel that I, too, can complete a marathon. I don't have to be the fastest. I just have to finish. That is very exciting.

I was disappointed to read in the mentioned article that many attribute the rise in female marthoners to Oprah's completion of a marathon a few years back. I'm happy for Oprah, but I'm not an Oprah follower, and I innately resist anything that might suggest I'm becoming one, such as reading from her book club list or running marathon after she did. Still, it has been on my list since I made that list in high school, and I don't remember most of the other stuff I put on that list.

But here is a question. Why do we all have to fundraise to run marathons? I didn't even sign up for a marathon that required fundraising, but I am still doing it. I'm tacking on a cause I care about and asking people to give money.

For me, it helps my level of accountability. It would be easy to quit training out of laziness or inconvenience. (It takes a LONG TIME to run so many miles each week!) But if you've sent out an email to 300 of your closest friends who are going to ask you about the run come time, well, it makes that much harder to face quitting. And if they've given $5, $10, $26, or more, again it becomes even harder.

I guess, also, it takes a lot of effort to run 26.2 miles....might as well put it to a good cause.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mommy Wars

I feel like the "mommy wars" are in my universe a lot these days. Perhaps it is because I have a swath of friends who are pregnant or who have young children. I watch them facing the decisions that fuel the mommy wars: stay at home or work? Because I see it in my network, I notice it in the media.

I have recently read two articles on regarding this issue.

First there are The Invisible Mommies. In this article, we see how the entire concept of the "mommy wars" focuses on the elite women of our country, the women who have the choice of staying home or working. For the elite, it is a moral issue and an issue of personal happiness. For many many others, there simply aren't that many options, and most of them are bad. If you can't afford to stay home, you probably can't afford daycare. What do these mothers do? The government doesn't help them. Society doesn't help them. They have only a lot of bad options imprisoning them.

Then there is A Truce in the Mommy Wars. This article explores the idea of the mommy wars being based on individual personal wars. It reviews a book that is a collection of essays from mothers on all ends of the spectrum. The prevailing idea is that the mommy wars are hyped by the media that essentially creates them by making mothers feel insecure, no matter what their choices are, and it proposes the idea that the media simulataneously creates and predates on this insecurity. "You aren't a good mom, but buy this product and your life will be happy."

And then there is Heather's take on The Price of Motherhood in her blog. Here we have again, the dilemmas that challenge mothers. She writes: "Motherhood is a big factor in poverty, as is divorce; alimony is increasingly less common, and all the stay-home care you provide (or want to provide) your kids doesn't count in its calculation. People tell you you're doing "the most important job" but they don't want to pay you for it, and if you're poor, to get public assistance, you can't stay home with your kids, but must put them in daycare and take a job that pays less than the daycare costs." Why can't our society realize that we truly need to integrate motherhood and children into how we value our culture? And while we're at it, lets add in teachers and education, among other things.

So, here I am contemplating issues that I see around me. I have been interested in the work of Moms Rising for a long time (well, ever since I heard of them, which was just shortly after they got started). The thing about it, for me, is that environmentalism is "my cause." At first I didn't really see how the issue of family and mother discrimination really fit into that. But I think now that they are truly integrated. I don't know very much about deep ecology, but I think I practice it. Taking the ideas of ecology, of interconnectedness, and applying it as a moral guide really works for most of my dilemmas. You can't jsut ask "How does this affect me?" Or even "How doe sthis affect my country?" But "Hoe does this affect the world?" We are truly interconnected, and facing the issue of motherhood comes as part of living in a world with mothers. And without mothers, where would we be? Exactly.

Books relevant to this article:

Unfulfilled Potential

What a beautiful and saddening thought, the children of imaginary conception.

Sciencebird wrote: Rumi, the sufi mystic poet, wrote a poem saying whenever a man and woman become lovers, a child is born, even if actual conception doesn't take place. The union of a man and woman is still an act of creation, whether in a one night stand or a marriage.

Abortion is an action that makes clear the idea of unfulfilled potential. There is conception: the egg and sperm unite. The gametes (the egg and sperm) fuse; the chromosones combine, and meiosis results in a random separation of the genes of each parent. At this point, there exists a unique genetic combination that will never be repeated. That is something tangible that one might be able to mourn at the goodbye of an embryo.

Yet every sexual encounter between penis and vagina has such potential. In a parallel to the abortion debate of when life begins, why can't one mourn the lost possibilities of pre-meiosis? Why must one only mourn the post-meiotic possibilities? Perhaps this is why the church and other entities and individuals argue against all forms of birth control.

However, there is also beauty in that potential. For every lost potential, we gain the possibilties of dreams.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Colony Collapse

The bees of the United States are suffering from abnormaly high death rates, and experts are calling the disorder Colony Collapse.

Honey bee is the common name for the species Apis mellifera. There are many sub-species of honey bees found world-wide, though the name was originally given the the European honey bee, which is the most commonly domesticated honey bee.

The worker bees make up the majority of a hive. These are female bees, usually sterile, and include the bees that leave the hive to harvest the pollen on which the entire colony depends, as well as some of the workers inside the hive that create the comb and tend the eggs and pupae. Drones are male bees that typically exist for the sole purpose of fertilizing the queen and die shortly after.

Worker bees live different lengths of time during different seasons. During the spring and summer they typically have shorter lifespans and spend their time foraging for pollen and nectar. When winter approaches, the bees are expected to live longer and work less; this is how they survive the colder winter months. One factor in Colony Collapse is that the bees are not living longer during the winter. Some experts think this could be related to global warming, and extended warm months.

Some of the many other theories include:

The bees may have become disoriented by cell phone radiation or other man-made technologicla radiation. This theory is being spread on-line, but is widely discalimed by bee experts and other authories.

Mites may be affecting the hives. Mites are a subclass or arachnids, and live inside the bees bodies. These microscopic creatures infect a hive or colony and can kill them off by killing individual bees. Mites are common in bees, but when the mite population beccomes too alrge the bees will die off in greater numbers.

Insecticides have been implicated as a factor in Colony Collapse. Because bees forage for food, they are easily exposed to pesticides, especially when they are transported for pollination work to fruit or nut farms that use pesticides. Pesticides can kill enough worker bees that the colony can not support itself, or pesticides can contaminate the pollen and nectar and disrupt the brood or queen of the hive, disabling the hives ability to produce new bees.

Genetically modified crops have also been blamed. Some proteins from genetically modified plants can be traced in the pollen and nectar that the bees collect. While studies have not shown direct death of bees that forage on genetically engineered plants, some studies have shown weakened immune that, when coupled with a disease, parasite, or insecticide, could cause massive deaths in a hive.

Global warming and changing wather patterns, as mentioned above, may also be a factor. The stress of shorter cold months, or fiercer competition by invasive plants or bees that thrive in an altering climate, could be debilitating native bees and domesitcated honey bees.

Poor nutrition is a possible cause that is linked with global warming, as well as invasive species. Plants that are struggling to survive in a warmer climate, or competing with invasive species, may produce less pollen, or simply less nutritious pollen, than native plants in healthy habitats. If bees rely on pollen that is deficient in certain minerals or nutrients, they will suffer from this.

Urbanization and moncrops are two modern phenomemon that may be contributing to Colony Collapse. Fragmented habitats, and lack of native and wild flowering plants due to urbanization may further stress the bess. Because bees recall mental images to find their way back to their nest, long strands of monocrops may distort their memory.

Though this has been in the news for months, it has been receiving increasing coverage as the mystery deepens. A recent article in Salon publishes an interview with four experts on this issue. Even between the four of them, they don't have a definite answer as to what is causing Colony Collapse.

The final answer is that no one really knows what is causing this decline in bee populations, The best answer is that it is a combination of many of the issues described above, perhaps not even the same issues across the board. However, most experts agree that humans are a factor, and our massive suburban expansion, contributions to global warming by burning fossil fuels, decimation of wild lands and support of monocrops are all contributing to the Colony Collapse. The issue at hand is that we are not living sustainably, in every sense of the word. The death of the bees is just one sign of the stress we are putting on the planet. They are the canaries in the mine, and we must take care of them, in order to take care of ourselves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Talking is addictive.

I found that I have become much more of a talker than I used to be. I have a lot of friends in other places, and I talk with them to keep in touch. That is a good thing. But sometimes I find talking so incredibly draining. I want to stop, but I want to catch up. Someone asks a question. I remember something I want to relate. Life is so exciting and I want to share it all. By the end of it all, my throat is tired and my head hurts.

Talking is addictive. I used to be a good listener, but I find myself talking more these days. I talk so much that I exhaust myself. I want to stop talking, but I can’t.

And here’s another piece of the pie: My writing is a version of my talking. The more I talk, the less I am able to write. My talking is not only detrimental to my mental health, it is a warped form of procrastination. I channel energy into talking instead of into writing.

It's not that I am totally out of control. I definitely make an effort to have balanced converstions, where both people talk in roughly similar proportions. But that's just it. I find that at some point I realize I have been talking more than my fair share, and I have to make an effort to stop. I once read an article on about compulsive talking; Leslie sent it to me. Chatty Cathy can't stop talking, and Cary's advice is to think of all talking as "stories" and to only talk about what relates to the story, and omit everythign else.

My advice to Cathy is to start writing. I have observed a strong inverse correlation between how much I talk and how much I write. This was reinforced at the Mesa Refuge over lunch with Natalie. She noticed that the other gentleman there tlaked about his work a lot, and she commented to me taht the more you talk about yoru work as awriter, the more diluted your work itself becomes. I understand that. You write about things yo aure compelled to write about. You talk about things you are compelled to talk about. But if you talk about things you are compelled to write about, you lose the fire. Yo uare no longer compelled to write about them. Your writing becomesa struggle instead of an enjoyable process, and your writing suffers from it.

I don't know if Cathy would be a good writer, but I think the effect would be the same. If she wrote about the things she is compelled to talk about incessantly, then she may be less compelled to talk about them. I know I, for one, am excited to talk less and write more (though for different reasons). Silence will be good for my throat, and writing will be good for my, well, writing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Even More On "The Power of Green"

I do agree with Friedman that the USA government needs to level the playing fields for clean energy, as compared to fossil fuels. Again, to reference my Sierra Magazine, there was recently an excerpt of a conference on the topic of global warming. The article is called “Climate Exchange,” and hosted 8 politicians, activists, and entrepreneurs. Their answer to the problem seemed to be a combination of carbon tax and cap-and-trade, pollution tax (replacing income tax), Kyoto protocol, biofuels, carbon sequestration (and sinks), lowered-risk investment in clean technology and leveled-energy subsidies, energy efficiency (and subsidies for low-income efficiency improvements). However, Friedman seems to be a big supporter of nuclear, and I have to disagree. While I believe it will be necessary to continue to have nuclear, I would support allowing only what already exists. Friedman admits nuclear will only succeed with massive government subsidies. I argue that the risks are too great. Any nuclear meltdown is disastrous and disposing of nuclear waste is an endeavor that requires vigilance to near infinity.

From the same Sierra article, one of the suggestions was to create “a variable subsidy that is countercyclical with oil. If the price of oil goes down, the biofuel subsidy goes up.” This is a really great idea, and shed light on the reason many investments fail is because if oil prices drop, interest in alternatives does too. Tax breaks and subsidies for green need staying power. The Saudis and other Middle Eastern oil producing countries understand that when the USA starts reducing its oil consumption, all they have to do is drop the price a bit and we will be back to our old habits. The USA needs to understand that as well, as this policy does.

More On "The Power of Green"

“The China Price” is also an interesting phenomenon. “The China Price” is the price that China pays for high-polluting energy today, because the people can not afford to pay for low-polluting energy and the environmental (and ultimately economic) costs of CO2 are far down the road and without immediate rewards. This is the Wal-Mart effect in the USA. Most people choose the cheapest product for the immediate savings, without considering the huge costs hidden in that bargain. “The China Price” is an easy way to see world-wide economics play out in parallel to a pattern I know.

Suntech Solar is an interesting business, and one I keep hearing about lately. I’d like to invest in that stock, and maybe when my job finds me I will have the chance. I love that the China’s low-cost production abilities are finally being used for something with a long-term viable future and a role in this new geo-green movement. I hope to see more entrepreneurial projects such as this in other developing nations. It is a way to circumvent the China Price really – China makes money on this product by selling to richer nations until the price has dropped enough and China’s economy increased enough that they can then begin to purchase them.

On "The Power of Green"

This is part of a response to Michael Friedman's op-ed piece in the New York Times, "The Power of Green."

I have always been interested in the environment, though in my younger days principally by way of nature. I liked trees and frogs and sunshine. I remember a few years ago being truly interested in (no-- compelled to pay attention to) United States and world politics for the first time. I assumed it was just that I had finally reached an age at which politics interested me, but a friend of mine (about double my age) said she had never been as interested in politics as she was now. The world was heating up in a number of ways, and the role of United States politics was an important player.

So, naturally, these two interests merged: environment and politics. Now I read a fair amount of literature exploring the merge in various ways: land use, food security, peak oil, etc. The emergence of green politics beyond the Green Party interests me greatly.

As Friedman writes “But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green state – not an America divided between red and blue states,” I recall a recent Sierra Magazine. The article quotes Bob Marshall of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “When the NRA starts talking like the Sierra Club, you know good times have arrived for fish, wildlife – and generations of sportsmen to come.” Finally we are seeing a red-green movement, similar to the blue-green movement started in the past few years where major environmental groups join with labor groups because protecting the environment also protects workers.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Point Reyes

Point Reyes Station and the Point Reyes National Seashore are part of the spectacular surroundings that make the Mesa Refuge so amazing. In Point Reyes, there are multiple restaurants with empahsis on organic, local foods (unfortunately this also seems to emphasize all the meats), but the good news is that also includes all the dairy products!

I never used to understand people's fasciantion with cheese, but as of late I have caught the cheese bug. I have had sheep ricotta and cow ricotta made at Bellweather Farms, about an hour north of here. I have also had the Cowgirl Creamery's own cottage cheese, panir cheese, fromage blanc, and brie-like "St Pat" wrapped in nettle leaves. I have also compared Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese with Humboldt Fog Blue Cheese, and prefer the Point Reyes (it's saltier and crumblier, while the Humboldt Fog is creamier). I also tried a local organic ice cream, but it wasn't nearly as good as San Diego's Mariposa.

I have also been making an effort to go out into the national and state parks that surround this town at least once a day. I have only missed one day, but on two days I've been twice, so my average is still over one. Here are some of the amazing pictures that can barely capture the beauty.

The other part of the amazement of this place is the smells. Every hike I take has a completely different array of scents. There is spicey pine, fruity earth, perfumey flowers, salty ocean, even grassy manure smells good here!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Good Food

Good food means whole food. Whole grains, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables should be the basis of a healthy diet. Processed and refined foods, foods that contain artificial flavors or additives, and foods full of sugar and fat should be eliminated or reduced in the diet. It is also important to eat your foods in their entirety. Instead of throwing away the top and bottom of a carrot, throw it into the casserole! If you must peel the carrot, boil the skins before you throw them away and use the broth in your next batch of soup! Carrot skins contain vitamins not found in the rest of the carrot. By using all part of your foods you obtain more of the nutrients and get a more balanced diet. The carrot tops contain minerals not found in the carrot itself. Throw some into your next batch of soup along with the rest of the carrot (but use in moderation, as it is also bitter in flavor).

Food should also be fresh. It is always better to choose a fresh peach over a canned peach and fresh green beans over canned green beans. Not only do they taste better, but they contain more nutrition and vital energy. You can find fresh food at a local farmer’s market. The selection at a farmer’s market is usually picked the same day, versus the week or older food often found at conventional grocery stores. If you have to ship a piece of fruit from halfway around the world, there’s just no way it can be as fresh as the fruit you find with the farmer who drove into town that day. For some people, the option of shopping at a farmer’s market is limited because of the limited growing season. In that case, it is reasonable to consume more dried or canned foods during the winter months, and to perhaps purchase imported foods at the grocery store. Keep in mind though, that the closer to home the food came from, the fresher it is. When you look around the produce section, try to find foods that came from your state, or at least your country, not the other side of the globe. An economical option for everyone is to buy lots of fresh food at the peak of its season, when it’s abundant and fresh, and then freeze, jar, and dry whatever you can’t eat.

All of this information applies to organic foods, too. Organic foods that are imported from other countries will always be more expensive than those that you find from the local farmers. Organic foods that are shipped long distances are also very often picked when they are quite green. Because organic standards ban the use of fungicides, this is the only way the food can be transported long distance without spoiling. Try to buy organic locally and in season, and then freeze, can, or dry the extras. This preserves the goodness of the food and also saves you money on quality ingredients.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mesa Refuge

The Mesa Refuge is amazing! So beautiful...

Natalie Goldberg is here with me, author of Writing
Down the Bones. She is really interesting, Zen
Jew-Bu (short for Jewish Buddhist in publishing
speak). Lives in NM, originally from NYC. We get
along well. I feel like I have a lot to learn from

Also a man named Melvin Adams, from
Washington, a Christian sort-of who has been
ex-communicated from 2 christian churches. Worked in
nucleur waste clean-up and is writing abook about Eve,
re-telling her story.

I am really progressing on my essays. Will probably
move onto another project before my time is up. They
were actually further along than I remembered, and I
am having ideas on where to submit them, so will be
looking into that perhaps while I'm here or else
shortly after.

The program is funded by Peter Barnes, co-founder of
Working Assets, also part of a really interesting
thinktank from here, with a focus on "the commons."
It's inspiring to my work, and reading some of the thinktank's
work has really gelled several of my essays and given
me the answer on how to end them that was lacking

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Selfish Giving

"You're wonderful because giving others pleasure is in the first place a pleasure to you."
"Yes, it's a form of selfishness."
"The most enchanting form there is."

Simone de Beauvoir writes the above in "The Woman Destroyed," and I see myself again returning to the question of whether it is morally acceptable to metaphorically send oneself flowers. This scene from Simone's book isn't exactly the same, but it brings up complications. Monique, the giver in the story, has given up her whole life for the sake of her family. She quits her studies to raise her daughters and shortly after they both leave home, her husband has an affair.

She lets him continue, even while she knows about it, and tries to distract herself. She spends time at her daughter's house while she recovers from the flu, even though her duaghter doesn't really need her. This form of giving becomes a burden on the daughter. So if you're giving and the receiver doesn't want, but you keep giving for your own needs/pleasure/ego, well then there is a problem.

And so the story is like the lady in that Yoga Journal article that Slate so clearly points out as a case of sending oneself flowers, even at the expense of another.

And of course it brings the question of personal boundaries... if Monique had not given up her own pursuits for those shared with her husband, then it seems her fate would have come out differently. Maurice, her husband, is as bad as Thomas from "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." (well, okay, I haven't finished "A Woman Destroyed" yet, but I'm guessing he's going to be.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

You Can Do No Wrong

If you didn't notice, I have written the past few posts as responses to these funny cards that I have. They aren't exactly tarot cards, but more like hippie cards. I never had the full deck; I got them for free when I worked at BookPeople in Austin and they cleaned up their tarot and other cards display. I got a strange collection of cards that I have since used for collage making and thought provoking.

"You can do no wrong" makes me think of this article I recently read at Slate Magazine.
And in turn, this article makes me think about the people in yoga classes who seemingly show off. And it makes me wonder about my own abstination from metaphorically sending myself flowers.

I like to buy extra soups or snacks with a long shelf life and keep them in my car. When I see homeless people I give them food. I don't like to give them money becuase I think it often facilitates the things that drive their problems (in other words they use it to buy booze or cigarettes), but yet I am too saddened by their circumstances to simply ignore them and look away. Giving them food won't really help their problems (only social reform can do that, IMO), but it may make them a little more comfortable.

But by writing about that on here, amd I simply sending myself flowers? Maybe I should cancel my gym membership and donate that money to a charity that helps to create social change that will diminish homelessness. Is access to yoga classes self-flowering? Can I go to yoga simply for a work out? Or do I have to do it to find peace? And if I do it just to find peace, where is the line that differentiates true peace seeking and gratuitous peace seeking?

I have a number of narcissistic hobbies. I won't even admit to them in print. But is narcissism really that bad? I thought it was good to love yourself...? Maybe we need to define the difference between narcissism and egoism. Is that where the problem exists?

I feel like this invites the topic of spirituality being a priviledge, which I whole-heartedly disagree with. Although there is some idea that one must first deal with survival (food, shelter, etc) before one can embark on a spiritual path. So perhpas that implies an obligation of those on the spiritual path (or perhaps even simply those who have their basic needs taken care of) to help alleviate suffering at large.

Simone de Beavior addresses this in her short story "The Age of Discretion" when two aging academics deal with their own age and their son's departure from the parents values. The parents must deal with their depleting interest in the world around them, though they continue to desire to work towards reducing suffering in the world. This is the one thing with lasting inspiration in their world.

So, perhaps as we age and gain wisdom, we realize more and more the importance of alleviating suffering and the inconsequentialness of sending oneself flowers. I don't think the characters in Simone's story would be interested in buring scented candles or sending themselves bouquets of flowers.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Think About It

Think About It For Awhile.

Okay, I will think about it for a while. And then a little while longer, too.


Okay. Now that I have thought about it, I am not sure what I am supposed to be thinking about. My writing? My relationships? My search for god/enlightenment? My job hunt?

I am thinking about myself and the boundaries in my life. Boundaries are a very important thing. And speaking up for yourself. And calling out others when they cross that boundary.

Girls are taught that they should always be nice. And boys are taught to do whatever they want. And only when we become women do we begin to speak up for ourselves, and that is only if we are lucky. And I'm not sure how many boys ever become men, becuase they usually don't ever begin to consider others. And then what are the consequences? Women are usually punished, or at least feel vexed, when they speak out against a man who has crossed a boundary.

I remember when I was taking flying lessons and this old man, really old, who was my instructor put his hand on my thigh (on the skin - I was wearing shorts) while I was flying the plane. I moved his hand without saying anything and he said "Oh gee, I'm sorry, I didn't notice where my hand was." I should have said "You are a dirty old man and I'm never flying with you again." And then I should have told the owner of the flight school to have a chat with him and explain appropriate behavior. But I didn't say anything. I'm glad that I at least moved his dirty old hand. Girls shouldn't be so nice.

Think about it for awhile.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Shadow Mate

There are soul mates, and then there are blackholes. "Blackhole" is the term I have come up with a person's shadow mate. A shadow mate is a type of soul mate, but also the oppostie of a soul mate.

I have discussed this topic with my friend Leslie, as she read an opinion piece on suggesting that a person's dark side is just as a ttractive to us as their open face personality. I agree ( and have since Leslie forst told me) that the dark side is part of the equation of attraction, but I have only recently wondered if (or realized that) sometimes that can be the entire basis of attraction.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


"It was a blackhole."

There are things in my life that I just don't understand. Like the time when I fell into a blackhole.

"No one falls into a black hole. And if they do, they don't survive!"

Well, I did fall into a black hole. And that explains things that I can't reason with. The ghosts that appear in my memory, the imaginary scenes I find myself creating, the things that haunt me.

But it's arguable whether I survived. In fact, I would agree with you that I did not. I was, in fact destroyed. And the things that haunt me are not ghosts of others or memories from my life. They are my own ghosts, and memories from the past life.

Who ever said that past lives only occur in the physical realm? My past lives are all in this lifetime. For example, I used to be a hippie. I used to be a Texan. I used to be a smoker. I used to be afraid of death.

Now, I travel through my life with "patience and low expectations." Death will give those things to you.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Artist's Book

Yourself a City
by Alegra Marcel Bartzat

Poems by the artist. Cave Paper chemise; Covers of paste paper made by artist. Printed letter press from photopolymer plates by artist on Fabriano Ingres paper.
Edition of 10 (8 left). 2005. $475.

A questioning of the border between nature and culture, and an exploration of the inevitable intersection. The poems are an interpretation of ecology of cities, and the book takes place in three parts. Earth, air, and water birth the rich and subtle interplay between words and form.

My Life - a collage

Friday, April 06, 2007

Adding Atmosphere to Public Transportation

One problem with public transportation is perception. At the EcoCenter, there was a station where we taught the children about Curitiba Brazil. When we asked the students why so few people take the bus in san DIego they would inevitably say "Becuase it's gross" (after they said "Because everyone has a car").

So, what the Metropolitan Transit Authority meeds, perhaps even more than good planning, is good marketing. Now I swear that one time while I was in san Francisco I saw a bus with chairs around a table with a lamp on it. I really don't think I imagined it, though no one else ever seems to have seen such a thing. Either way, it's a really good idea.

Let's make the bus a palce to relax. Like people who commute on teh train, and who can go into the cafe car for a bottle of beer or little single serve of wine on teh way home from work. They kick their feet up, pop a cold one, and enjoy the view fly by. Especially in Southern California, as the major train line goes along the ocean's edge. What better commute could there be? If they could franchise with Starbucks to sell the morning coffees, they'd be in business.

So waht about the bus? Instead of banning eating and drinking ,encourage it. Especially on express buses with few stops. Include a vending machine in the back of the bus. Lose the flourescent bulbs and go for that soft glow. Choose everyone's favorite decorating colors: burgundy, chartreuse, and a soft golden brown. Get those lamps on the lamps on the tbales, and design routes along major commuter ways so people don't have to chagne lines very often, but can sit back and relax on the bus ride instead of worrying about missing their line change.

And the same goes for the bus stops. There are so many bus stops that lack even the modest comfort of a bench. Who wants to stand in the burning sun or pouring rain while they wait for a bus that is probably oing to be late? Put in a few benches, and always make sure they're covered. Because even though San Diego has great weather year round, on a city street in teh middle of summer I guarantee you it is uncomfortably hot, and even though it only rains a few months out of the year, that it is still too many to make people stand in the rain.

And regarding the benches, lose the plastic ad benches. No good thing ever came of those. They are hidesouly ugly, scarring the streets of a city. If you need advertising revenue approach it with calss. Advertisiers can buy unbrellas or awnings for the stops, with ads limited to text. I don't want to see any more real estate angents on their phones at the bus stops!

Add cafes at major stations with many ilnes, but don't make ti a hot dog cart and vending machine, make it a real cafe. Even starbucks would suffucem though it is nothing like ar eal cafe since they only serve drinks and sweets, no real food. Go for the European flair, with simple items that can still make a profit wihile satisfying both hunger and pallete: a bageutee sandwich, fresh juice and salads, fruits that are fresh and flavorful. Add a flower stand and it's a done deal.

Springtime Trip to Europe

My springtime trip to Europe: 3 days in Paris, 4 days in Barcelona, 8 days in Mallorca, and 1 night in Gatwick Airport

I spent a scant three days in Paris with one of my dear friends. But, though 90% unemployed and after six months without a penny's worth of work, she got called in at a school she is courting to try to get a permanent position. With that on the line, she couldn't say no. So, I met her for lunch (leek quiche and pear tart), went to her place to rest, we ate a vege-licious dinner of salad and sweet falafel.

I even went running the next day, for about 3 miles along the Seine. I met her again in the city for an evening out. We cruised around town, checking out a "creator" festival, and had the best vegetarian food in Paris (which is only pretty good) at Le Potager du Marais (the garden kitchen of the marsh). We went back to Mel and Stephane's to polish off a bottle of champagne and prank call old friends.

And then Saturday rolls around and I already have to leave. After being woken up by Stephane crinkling cellophane around the apartment, we get up (nixing the yoga we had planned) and have a lazy breakfast, including the gift of Tazo Chai with milk and honey, of course! We spend the morning shopping for cheese (I did find the fromagerie where I bought a decadent goat cheese log that was rolled in walnuts and had the essence of honey... I bought it again, one for me to take to Spain and one for Melissa as a thanks for having me), tea, and chocolate, and then I hop on the plane to Spain. Au-revoir!

A very long day later, I take a plane, a bus, multiple subway lines and a confusing walk to finally arrive at the hotel where Marshall is for his work event. But he is nowhere to be found. His phone doesn't work, there is neither key nor message for me at the hotel. I am waiting in the lobby, but I am surrounded by Germans and there is nowhere to go, so I hide out in the corner near the computers. I peek into the bar and see a group of men, but no Marshall. Finally I sneak upstairs after trying a call to him and watching them dial his room number. There is a note: I'm at the bar. I go back, and he is there (but certainly wasn't before). I go upstairs and he says he is about to go out with guys from Detroit. After a few minutes, I change and get ready to go. We have delicious tapas, go to an Irish bar (against my wishes, but better to be loud and obnoxious with foreigners and ex-pats than with Catalonians). We finally head back at about 5am. Marshall gets up a few hours later, but I sleep all day.

The rest of the time in Barcelona was basically like that. Dance all night, sleep all day. Actually, that's not true. We only went out dancing one night, but with the jet lag and everything, the other nights I couldn't fall asleep even when I tried, so I really did sleep all day everyday I was there.

I made it into town 2 of the 4 days I was there. One day I went to la routa de modernistas, and the second day I went to a bookstore and surrounding parks and interesting buildings. I even went running one day, for about 3 miles. This is actually pretty sad since I'm supposed to be up to some 6 or 7 miles by now, I'm sure. Then there is the gala dinner, a delicious feast of delights at a typical Catalan restaurant: pa amb oli (toasted bread with tomatoe and oil), a variety of fish, snails, paella, grilled vegeatables, creme catalon, and cafe. The next night Marshall and I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Alegria, and show about happiness with an undercurrent of terror. There was an amazing hula hooper with a rythm of 12 hoops on her body at once, and of course many many others.

And then Marshykins and I headed off to Mallorca. Our Mediterranean island vacation awaits... And we arrived in the rain, and got lost, and took a full day to complete a 45-minute flight and 1-hour drive. Of course add to that the 45 minutes we waited to sign the papers for our rental car because their printer wasn't working so they had to call the headquarter office and ask them to fax a copy over, and the hours of driving in circles in Palma not being able to find the freeway and in Alcudia not being able to find out hotel. And of course at the hotel they had lost our reservation so had to call the Internet office and see what went wrong. But we were here at last.

When I travel, I lose grasp of my little rituals, even though traveling is time all about yourself, I can't seem to keep in line the things that I do for myself. So I stop doing yoga, can't seem to keep up on my training schedule, and forget about meditating. Yet, still there is a thrill of travel that somehow replaces those to a large extent. The thrill is the escape from yourself, from your daily rules and rituals. That escape is both a solace and difficulty, ranging far to both ends of that spectrum at different moments and easily swinging wildly from one minute to the next. I eat up the culture with my inquisitions and also with my palate.

Anyway, after days of jetlag and uncommon sleeping habits, which as fun as they are in the short term I really dislike in the long term, and not making time to do yoga or meditate, I was just getting crabby.

Mallorca is a strange place, also. There are great amounts of charm to be found in the hills and coves, but the maps are unbelievable. I have never had guidebooks with such poor maps, and I had two guidebooks, plus a plethora of free maps from the car rental and hotels, and they were all terrible. The first two days were really harsh. Also, we thought the island was Spanish, but it's actually German. There are hundreds of German bikers, and all the signs and menus are in German.

We took one day to drive around the peninsula Cap de Formentor, which was beautiful, but the resort there (which is praised in the guide books as something to be visited) is closed to the public (and the guard a jerk), and the light house is under construction, like half the hotels in Alcudia. We also head up to the monastery where we see La Moreneta, and we thought we could hear the boys' choir, but it is Friday and a holiday, so they are gone for the weekend. That was disappointing (I never heard it at Can Serrat, either), but the drive was beautiful.

Finally, while looking for a decent map (not to be found on the island), I found a guidebook called "Walk and Eat." It was meant for me. There are half-day walks and excursions around the island, with restaurants en route. The walks are well marked and the starting points are all places that have signs pointing to them (like the train station in town X or the church in town Y). So for two days we take the hikes: off the beaten track paths, through varied terrains, and mostly loops.
And as we settle and adjust to the roadbumps, I start to make time for myself again. I do at least a little bit of yoga every morning, and my peace returns. We hike in Soller, Biniaraix, and Fornalutx, along ancient stone steps, and trails between citrus, almond, and olive groves. The next day we hike around Bunyola, passing limestone kilns, charcoal burning stone rings, ancient Moorish water wells, and through beautiful pine forests. Not to mention, caves and ancient houses and a few more orchards. All this hiking is going towards my marathon schedule as cross training.

On the drive back to our aparthotel, in Inca, we see a shop with Mallorcan specialties and buy up a bunch of produce, including spinach, tomatoes, oranges, olive oil, and artichokes. A delightful find! We ask at the shop and discover a vegetarian restaurant in Inca, which is quite good, and uses all local produce. I have stuffed zuchinni, marshall has sweet and sour seitan with a mediteranean sweet and sour sauce of apricots and figs.

And the day we return to the other guidebooks, disaster ensues. Not the whole day, much of the day was good. We drive to the coast, tour some caves. The caves are okay - they are beautiful structures that have been highly commercialized and completely destroyed from the massive amounts of tours that go through. It was overall disappointing, though they did have a classical music concert on gondolas in an underground lake, which was beautiful. I just couldn't get over the destruction.

And then we went to a glassworks factory, which was interesting wit ha great collection of worldwide glassworks, some very old. And then we head into Palma, where the disaster awaits. The signage is terrible and the maps are worse, so it takes us an hour to find the part of town we are looking for (although we did stop at the excellent department store grocery store El Cortes Ingles and stock up on food and gifts), and another hour to make circle back to the street we want since we missed it the first time, and still realize we can't turn onto because it's one way. I was so stressed out, and my bladder was so full it had bladder cramps - a first experience of that kind of discomfort, and an ensuing headache from dipping blood sugar. All because we wanted to try to the vegetarian restaurant, after the two hours, the place is closed. They are open 4 hours a day, from 1pm until 5pm.

We do find a delightful little wine and cheese bar just up the street. I can at least pee, we get our blood sugar stabilized and then are able to enjoy the charming, tiny little space, with hand crafted hanging lamps, subdued primary color painted walls, and the handsome and friendly Argentine waiter. The cheese platter had two semi-soft cheeses, plus a harder one with the outer edge crusted with rosemary (which grows wild here).

And speaking of cheese, here are all the Spanish cheeses I ate that I bought from a cheese shop or grocer (too many at the restaurants to keep track of).

  • A goat cheese that was the typical crumbly goat cheese texture in the middle, but gooey with a white powder-appearance on the outside, just like Brie.
  • A cured sheep's milk cheese that was hard and aged, something like Manchego.
  • A semi-cured sheep's milk cheese that was like that parmesan with those crunchy bits in it, except no crunchy bits in the texture. This was probably my favorite, and was from Mallorca.
  • A goat's milk blue cheese - seriously the "Stinkiest" I've ever had!

I am inspired to find a San Diego cheese maker. Are there any? Seems like they'd be at the hillcrest farmer's market, and they're not. I'll have to do some research.

Anyway, the next day we choose another walk from our prized book. Another great day, we abandoned hermitage up in the mountains, an old wine press inside of a cave, and some amazing trails through old fields and over cliffs, boulders, and old walls. We have fun taking pictures, and discussing whether or not I should write a head out to the plains (Se Pla), and park in a tiny little town, Santa Eugenia. We hike a loop, with a up and back off it, discovering lots of old and new homes with amazing views, an "Walk and Eat" book for San Diego, and if so what should be included.

Then we drive to a mountain town, where the clouds are hanging around and the wind is blowing, and we are so cold! But the town is adorable, as all the guidebooks have gushed. We walk around their monastery, find their church, visit the home where their patron saint was born, and just wander the darling streets. We eat a typical Mallorcan bun, cocas de patatas, which is a very plain sweet bun with powdered sugar on top (didn't taste like potatoes, I think it may be potato flour). Then we drive back to our hotel in the anomaly of the island we've sought out, Port d'Alcudia, the epitome of bad tourism. Still, our hotel was cheap and we have a kitchenette and we cooked up local artichokes and made salad and consumed another half bottle of olive oil.

Our second to last full day, we go driving, exploring the south east coast that we haven't yet been to. We go to both the mega resort town that is known as ugly and the mega resort town that is slightly reined in. They are both massive, but the reined in one is certainly more attractive. We drive to Botanicactus, a heralded cactus garden in the south. The variety is impressive, and the size of the park, too, but the maintenance is lacking. Cacti are diseased, ignored, in need of grooming. The walkways need grass and leaves cleared out and new gravel, and some cactuses even have age-old stakes tied onto them that are at this point cutting into the cactus. it is a bit reminiscent of the caves... so much potential for amazement, but a lack attention leaves us to disappointment. On the way back to our port, we pass a dairy and stop to buy some Queso Fresco. It is divine! I've never tasted anything so fresh! It doesn't have much flavor, it just tastes of freshness. It makes me think that I might actually like milk if I ever had it fresh.

The last day we got up early to find the roman ruins we had searched for on out first day and never found. It was a lucky combination of us getting half way decent directions from a shopkeeper (for once) and remembering the other halfway decent directions from day one that someone else had given us, and marshall remembering the directions in the guidebook (which we had forgotten to bring with us). With all three combined we could piece together that we go halfway down one road by the church, then by the next church we cut over the wall at the dirt lot and find the trail at the back and go in the opposite direction of the posted sign to find the ruins. And then we found them, a small amphitheatre from the Romans.

After hanging in the theatre, we headed on down to Palma. We forgot the umbrella, got halfway through our walk, took a cab to the car to retrieve the umbrella since it started pouring, had to stop for cash, then stop for change because the bill was too large (which took several stops...), get the umbrella, take a taxi back since we were on a tight schedule trying to get to the vegetarian restaurant before they closed at 5pm. The sun came out then, of course. But it did go back behind clouds and it poured. We finished the walk, a very interesting climb to an old castle and through various neighborhoods and down to the maritime road along the port, eventually running to get to the restaurant before 5pm. We get there at 4:30pm to find out... we remembered wrong: they actually closed at 4pm. yes, that's right, this restaurant is open THREE hours per day, and closed on Sundays. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

We tried to find an alternative and basically spent $17 on stale bread: stale bread and oil, stale bread and tomato, olives, and deep fried spinach. But it was mostly stale bread. We decide to try the vegetarian restaurant in our guidebook in the town neighboring out hotel-town. When we make it there, we are informed that the guidebook is several years out of date and that the restaurant is not only no longer vegetarian, it has changed names. We really weren't meant to eat veg that night...

We find a decent alternative, where Marshall has shellfish and cod (good and mediocre), and I have various incarnations of zucchini, tomato, potato, and eggplant, all delicious, but not worth the price tag of a $100 meal. However, I did make a friend with the hostess, and we made lots of jokes together in Castillian and she gave us free shots of hierbas (traditional digestif) at the end of the meal.

The last day of our vacation was the first day of travelling home. We pack up (luckily I woke up on time, because we never got the wake up call we requested), and on heading out the doors we decide to try to book a quick hotel for ourselves, in Gatwick and Barcelona respectively. I find a decent priced hotel, but can't find the phone number. The lobby smells of chlorine and this particular morning the sun is heating the glass walled space up too much and there is a large group of kids screaming and crying.

It is very stressful, and we suffer through the online bookings and searching for the number and finally rush out the door, 20 minutes later than planned. Of course we are about to run out of gas, so we have to stop. We get to the airport, turn in the car, and on our way to the check-in, when Marshall realizes he's forgotten his camera in the car. He runs back and I check us in. The women at the check in counter tell us that we better hurry, because it is only 30 minutes before the flights leaves and everyone is already on the plane; the flight is actually closed, but they are going to let us on.

We run all the way there, luckily security is very quick, and arrive sweating and waving our tickets. They stare at us like we're crazy because they haven't even started boarding yet. We board, the flight is quick. But in Barcelona Marshall is not feeling well. His fried cod has upset his stomach, and he couldn't sleep well. I get lucky that I can change my ticket to Gatwick, to leave at 6pm instead of 9pm (arrive at 9pm instead of midnight). This is great news. Marshall finds a hotel room (he didn't find one on line), and things seem to be set. We grab a quick bite to eat; we forgot a very delicious salad that we made from the leftovers of our Mallorcan shopping: spinach, arugala, white asparagus, green olives, blue cheese, and vinegarette made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a bit of brine. I was really looking forward to it, but had to make due with a baguette with mozarella and tomato.

The hotel I found as a last minute deal in Gatwick had a free bus, and they even have free wifi at the hotel (in the lobby). What a deal! I have to get up pretty early, but another set of good news is that it's an hour earlier here, so I wake up at 6:45, but it's really like 7:45, not quite so bad! They have no shampoo or lotion here (the two things I need), only soap. Also, the bed is pretty saggy and can feel the springs, but oh well. Can't have everything, huh?

I had for dinner, from this wholefoods-like store that was AT THE AIRPORT: orzo with slow roasted tomatoes (and spinach and parsley and onion), a yummy orange raspberry juice, and a vanilla yogurt (mediocre). Still, over all, pretty good for airport dining.

Things have been pretty smooth so far, and I hope this luck holds out for me catching the flight in the morning. If all goes well, I'll make it all the way back to the west coast tomorrow.

That's all from Europe. I'll be posting again from my international base of operations tomorrow, or soon after.