Friday, October 31, 2008

Homemaking ABC's

A ~Aprons--y/n If y, what does your favorite look like? Yes, definitely. My favorite is a purple (of course) full length chef's apron, but I use a vintage half length white one with blue and red polka dots most often. B ~ Baking--Favorite thing to bake? Cookies. C ~ Clothes line? Not yet, but soon. D ~ Donuts? Yes, especially baked instead of fried. E ~ Everyday--One homemaking thing you do everyday? Clean kitchen counters. F ~ Freezer--Do you have a separate deep freeze? Not yet, but SOON! I can't wait. G ~ Garbage Disposer? Compost bucket. H ~ Handbook--What is your favorite homemaking resource? Betty Crocker and the Internet. I ~ Ironing--Love it or Hate it? Or hate it but love the results? I love to iron, but rarely have the need. J ~ Junk Drawer--y/n? Where is it? Of course, it's in the kitchen. K ~ Kitchen--color and decorating scheme. Mostly white with green and oak. Vintage country. L ~ Love--what is your favorite part of homemaking? When my husband shows appreciation! M ~ Mop--y/n? Yes, a self-wringer so my hands don't have to get wet. N ~ Nylons, machine or hand wash? Haven't worn them for years, but I always did them in the machine. O ~ Oven--do you use the window or open the oven to check? I open the door. P ~ Pizza--What do you put on yours? Every Friday night is pizza night at our house. I use Martha White thin and crispy crust. Toppings are usually mushrooms, pepperoni, and extra cheese. Sometimes I throw some black olives and/or onions on, too. Q ~ Quiet--What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Read. R ~ Recipe Card Box--y/n? Yes, I think I have 2 or 3 in addition to my cookbook library. S ~ Style of house--What style is your house? The exterior is a 10-year-old modular ranch, but eventually the interior will be a French country castle. T ~Tablecloths or Place mats? Definitely tablecloth. U ~ Under the kitchen sink--organized or toxic wasteland? Very organized. V ~ Vacuum--How many times per week? The Pergo floor gets dust-mopped several times a week and spot-mopped as needed. W ~ Wash--How many loads of laundry do you do per week? 2-3. X's--Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off? Only when I'm planning a gathering at my house. Y ~ Yard--y/n? Yes, 2 acres. ZZZ's ~ what is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed? Letting the kitties in for the night, locking up, turning off the lights, and flushing the master bath toilet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Loafing Around

I planned to bake bread yesterday, but I spent much of the day writing instead (see blog post below). So instead of coming home at 4 p.m. to the smell of fresh loaves in the oven, my hubby was greeted by the sight of me in the kitchen frantically getting everything into the bread machine to be mixed (there are limits to what this fibromyalgia patient can do). This was the first time I've tried my hand at making bread from scratch. I used the recipe for baguettes from King Arthur Flour as well as their wonderful bread flour. This recipe calls for making a 'starter' the night before, which I finally managed to remember to do. My husband is learning as well, since he had no idea that it was ok to leave the dough sitting out overnight. I nearly laughed out loud when he asked if I shouldn't put it in the fridge. Not if I want to the yeast to work! Baking bread is definitely not for the impatient. After mixing the ingredients with the bread machine on the 'dough' setting, I put my lovely little ball of yummy-smelling dough into a buttered bowl to rise for an hour. When the timer went off, I gently poked holes in the dough and turned it over to rise for 2 more hours. Phew! Time to make dinner. When the timer went off again, it was time to split the dough into loaves. It's a good thing that I used my biggest Pyrex mixing bowl, because the dough had grown to almost double. The recipe says it makes three 16" baguettes, but my pan holds only two loaves, so I split the dough in half. I bought a mezzaluna specifically for cutting bread dough, and it worked like a charm after I buttered the blade. After the dough rested for a few minutes while the oven preheated, I shaped the two loaves and made cuts in the tops. I sprinkled some water on them as directed for a crunchy crust, but I think next time I'll use a spray gun to mist them more evenly. Into the oven they went for about 25 minutes. Just before 10 p.m., I opened the oven door to see and smell two lovely baguettes. Here they are on the cooling rack: Photobucket One loaf will be devoured this evening with dinner. I'm making a romantic dinner of Lasagna Rustica. Wednesday is Italian night at our house, and a fresh baguette will make it all the more authentic. If there's any left over, I'm sure it will go well with the chili I'm planning for the weekend. The other loaf will be a gift to my dear aunt and uncle. I knew when I bought a double baguette pan that they would be getting a loaf whenever I bake bread. I cut the end off a loaf this morning, just to be sure it was edible. So far, so good. A nice crispy crust on the outside, but soft delicious bread on the inside. It tastes just as good as the dough smelled. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the effects that baking bread would have on my spirit. Not only do I feel accomplished, I feel satisfied down in my soul. Just knowing that I can take some flour, water, and yeast and make something so delicious is amazingly comforting. As is the fact that I will never again look longingly at the fresh baguettes in the grocery store, knowing that I can make it myself. But there's a more primal feeling that's been struck like a chord in my soul. Perhaps it's that I've finally taken a place in the long line of bakers in my family, a matriarchal lineage of kitchen witches. My spirit sighs as I take a place among them and they welcome me with open arms. "The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight." ~ M. F. K. Fisher (1908-1992) "[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells...there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread." M. F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Throwing Away Oil

America's addiction to oil is not limited to fuel, contrary to popular thought. True, 81% of our oil use is for fuel, but where does the other 19% go?

Before crude oil can be used it must be refined into one of three products: (1) a fuel product such as gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, kerosene, or liquefied refinery gases, (2) a non-fuel product such as asphalt, lubricant, solvents, wax, or (3) petrochemical feedstock such as benzene, toluene, xylene, ethane, ethylene, propane, propylene, naphtha, or gas oil. Fuels are used to for space heating, transportation, electricity generation, crop drying, cooking stoves, water heaters, and lamp oil. Non-fuel oil-derived products include asphalt, lubricants, petroleum coke, road oil, solvents, and wax. Petrochemical feedstocks are used in the production of fertilizers, plastics, paints, pesticides, herbicides, medical equipment, and synthetic fibers. (Credit: Petrochemicals: Is Oil Too Precious To Burn?)

That the ubiquity of oil in American life goes unnoticed is astonishing. About 3% of the oil we use ends up as roads (asphalt is petroleum-based). We drive our cars on those same roads to get to the stores where the products are wrapped in plastic and sit on plastic shelves and get rung up through a plastic price scanner. Plastics are petroleum-derived products as well. Even "wood" furniture is rife with pressed foam mouldings, again a petroleum derived product. The vegetables we eat are fertilized with and protected from bugs by petroleum products. Artificial fertilizers and pesticides come from oil. Synthetic materials in our clothing are often petroleum derived as well. In a sense, we eat it, we wear it, we sit on it, we drive with it, we store our sandwiches and cola in it. Oil is absolutely everywhere. (Credit: Oil And Ethics: American Consumption and Entitlement Egoism)

When I was a kid, water came from a faucet and pop came in glass bottles. Only supermodels drank bottled water, and pop tasted so much better. I remember the quart bottle of Pepsi in our fridge and getting to keep the change after I hauled cartons of empty bottles into the store for my aunt.

Long before recycling became a mantra, grocery stores had bottle return bins at the front of the store and paid cents per bottle. I don't remember any awareness campaigns to encourage people to recycle glass bottles; you just did it. Collecting bottles for the refund was always an option, whether they were found along the roadside or in the kitchen.

Soon after I went to college, wine coolers became popular. That's the first time I remember seeing 2-liter bottles. It didn't take long for all of those glass pop bottles to be replaced with plastic. Shortly after that, the bottle return bins in the grocery stores disappeared, replaced by a decision on grocery bags--paper or plastic?


Each year, 29 billion plastic water bottles are produced for use in the United States, according to the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental organization in Washington, D.C. Manufacturing them requires the equivalent of 17 million barrels of crude oil. The amount of PET plastic on U.S. shelves has more than doubled in the last decade, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). The increase is a result of the surging demand for bottled water. In 2005, seven and a half billion gallons of water flooded U.S. shelves – roughly equivalent to the average amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in three hours. That’s 21 times more bottled water than the amount available on shelves in 1976, according to U.S. government data. Of the 2.7 million tons of plastic PET bottles on U.S. shelves in 2006, four-fifths went to landfills.



In recent years, plastic waste has proliferated wildly with the spread of the plastic beverage bottle. Glass, and to a lesser degree aluminum, have given way to ubiquitous single-serving plastic soda bottles that now flood supermarket shelves. How did it happen? Here's the irony: It was the veneer of recyclability - cultivated by the plastics industry - that led to this explosion.

In 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a set of numerical codes to aid in sorting plastics for recycling. The codes - three "chasing arrows" surrounding a number as a sign of recyclability - were "deliberately misleading," says Daniel Knapp, director of Berkeley's Urban Ore, in his 1996 report on the plastics industry. In the words of Bill Sheehan, director of the Athens, GA-based GrassRoots Recycling Network: "The plastics industry has wrought intentional confusion with that symbol. They [packagers] were just getting out of glass, and this plastic had no recycled content, while glass did. [The SPI codes] gave plastic an environmental patina."

In 1990, the Coca-Cola Company, the world's largest soda maker with half the global market, promised to begin making its bottles with post-consumer recycled plastic. Although Coke produces over 20 million plastic soda bottles every day in the US, none of them contains recycled plastic, according to the GrassRoots Recycling Network. Nor is Coke held responsible for their disposal.

Instead of finding ways for manufacturers like Coke to close the loop on their waste, the American Plastics Council (APC) touts the recyclability of plastic, along with its significant weight benefit over glass (which allows some transportation fuel savings); on the other side, manufacturers like Coke fight against any legislation mandating the reuse of plastics that so many Americans diligently put in collection bins.

But what happens to the plastic after it is collected? Does it actually get "recycled," returning to where it came from, staying out of the garbage dump? Not according to environmentalists, industry experts, recycling managers, and plastics brokers. Despite collection efforts, only a handful of manufacturers actually take back what they make, and less than two percent of collected plastic gets made into new food containers, like soda bottles. The rest ends up in products like fleece jackets, non-food containers, commercial-grade carpet, plastic lumber, and park benches - or gets thrown out.

Plastics sold for recycling are divided into two broad groups: high grade, which is very clean, has minimal contamination with other types of plastic, and is made into containers; and low or fiber grade, which is made into much less demanding products like jacket fill, fleece, carpets, and industrial plastic strapping.

The vast majority of recycled plastics are fiber grade. Data from the Washington DC-based Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) show that, in 1996, 77.6 percent of recycled plastic went to fiber-grade non-container applications, 20.6 percent to non-food containers, and just 1.7 percent to new food containers.



What is the Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle?

America's dirty little oil secret: Plastic bottles and bags

2008 House Bill 2422 (Prohibiting the sale of petroleum-based water bottles)


During WWII, civilians participated in the "war effort" by rationing supplies, including rubber tires, passenger automobiles, typewriters, sugar, gasoline, bicycles, footwear, fuel oil, coffee, stoves, shoes, meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood and coal, jams, jellies and fruit butter, and medicines. During the 1973 oil crisis, coupons for gas rationing were printed but never used. In both instances, a national speed limit was enforced to conserve fuel. There were major ad campaigns to encourage people to conserve energy.

Contrast that to today.

After the September 11 attacks, Bush simply asked Americans for their “continued participation and confidence in the American economy.” From the International Herald Tribune, 1/14/03: Bush did nothing to mobilize public opinion to accept the sacrifices that war implies — the first thing a leader would do. Tax cuts could go ahead as planned, and energy saving was dismissed out of hand. “Go shopping” was the administration’s message.

Bush added during a press conference in December 2006 that 2007 will “require difficult choices and additional sacrifices” from the American people: "As we work with Congress in the coming year to chart a new course in Iraq and strengthen our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must also work together to achieve important goals for the American people here at home. This work begins with keeping our economy growing. … And I encourage you all to go shopping more." (video)

In July 2008, Bush touted last year's energy law that requires 40 percent auto fuel efficiency gains by 2020. He also urged Americans to conserve fuel but rejected any suggestion that he launch a national campaign to reduce energy use. "I think people ought to conserve and be wise about how they use gasoline and energy, absolutely," he said, stressing that consumers are "smart enough" to figure out how far they want to drive.

Without leadership at the top levels of government, there's a disturbing dichotomy. On one hand, there is the American Chemistry Council's ad campaign that asserts plastics are "essential" to life. On the other hand, cities, states, and even other countries are taking matters into their own hands by banning plastic water bottles and grocery bags.

Even when oil prices were predicted to top $200 per barrel, no one was really advocating conservation, and certainly no one was linking plastics to oil. The focus has continued to be on gas prices. It has become obvious that our government and corporate America, particularly car manufacturers, have no intention of weaning our country from our oil dependence. So we'll have to take the initiative and do what we can ourselves.

A first step should be to STOP THROWING AWAY 30 MILLION GALLONS OF OIL A YEAR in the form of plastic bottles and grocery bags. Bring back glass bottles and the infrastructure that was in place for recycling them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Ant and the Grasshopper

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Æsop's Fables (sixth century B.C.)

In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:



Excerpt from When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin, international self-reliance expert

Are you an ant wannabe? Do you constantly talk about the brown stuff hitting the fan, but do little or nothing to address your talk, preferring instead to crank up your headphones and dance?

Due to the nature of my profession, I know plenty of ant wannabes. They wail and gripe about Armageddon, the Hopi Indian prophecies, the end of the Mayan calendar, the return of Jesus, Elvis, or the mother ship, Y3K, the New World Order, black holes, plague epidemics, depleting ozone, judgment day, earth changes, killer asteroids, and exploding, dying, or newly created suns. After they have talked at me, ant wannabes typically end their monologue with a coy look and the phrase, "Well, when the end comes, I know where I'm headed... haw-haw." Where they're really headed is straight into my stew pot, so I hope their unwanted visit brings them prefattened.

Ant wannabes, be warned, your less-than-positive actions are contributing to the mass hysteria of the planet. Please shut up, calm down, and do something useful with your time instead of needlessly scaring others. In addition, nothing could be more obnoxiously insulting and arrogant than assuming you will be welcome to take shelter and eat the food of anyone who has bothered to prepare as they saw fit while you spewed negative words and did nothing. Helping those who have been trying to be self-reliant and found themselves caught in a tight spot by a twist of fate is another thing altogether. When the talking stops, people show you who they are and what they feel is important by where they devote their action, time, and money.


Ants are social insects who form colonies ranging from a few dozen to millions of highly organized individuals. Colonies are sometimes considered superorganisms, because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity collectively working together to support the colony. Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are remote or inhospitable islands. Their success has been attributed to their social organization, ability to modify their habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves.

This behavior was noted over 2500 years ago by Aesop in the fable above as an example for us to follow. Human beings may have many of the same qualities, but we have one thing the ants don't: freeloaders. People who expect others to take care of them, particularly in hard times, when they are fully capable of doing for themselves. Worse than the grasshopper, who learned the lesson as it lay dying, freeloaders never learn that they are their own responsibility. The grasshopper did not play all summer and then take food from the ants; it died. Aesop's lesson was about being prepared, not about rewarding irresponsibility.

Once disaster strikes, it's too late to prepare for it. Even when a crisis is imminent, it's usually too late, as anyone who has tried to get gas, water, or batteries during a hurricane can attest. Only the first in line get what's in stock, so depending on getting it at the store when you need it is much too short-sighted.

I was raised from a very young age to believe that the end of the world was close at hand, during a time when living off the land was a popular ideal. Being prepared for disaster has been in-grained in me for years and has come in handy on several occasions. I am thankful for the fact that I've lived nearly all my life in a rural area, where self-reliance and frugality are the norm and where we have the room and the freedom to do more. I have learned lessons passed down from the Great Depression generation, which still have great practical value for those living in poverty and are generally better for the environment. I have great respect for those who live simply that others may simply live. I may not always practice as thoroughly as I'd like this way of life; I work hard to provide for myself so that I can enjoy some comforts while I can. But my husband and I have taken many things into account when establishing our own home, and we're doing what we can as we can. We're prepared for short-term crises such as power outages and blizzards, and we're working hard to bring longer-term plans to fruition.

If you haven't already developed a support network and a plan for the worst-case scenario, please do so soon. Discuss options that would take care of everyone in your 'tribe', which may not necessarily be family. Different situations may require different plans. Don't assume that you'll be able to pile everything in the minivan and drive to one location or that you'll be able to even know what's going on with some of your loved ones. Remember when the phone networks were overloaded on 9/11? Remember the chaos after Hurricane Katrina? Remember the traffic from the evacuation for Hurricane Ike? Start with the people (and animals) who live with you, and then widen the circle for circumstances that may allow or require more travel. By planning ahead and working together, big expenses may be more manageable.

Don't assume that you will be welcomed with open arms and fed from a limited supply that was stored with a certain number of people in mind. "Ants" who have a year's supply of food and water for 4 will not last long if 6 "grasshoppers" are invited in. I don't know if I'd go as far as Cody Lundin with his stew pot, but a locked door and a shotgun might be what you get if you come knocking at my door in dark times. Those who would be welcomed already know who they are.

Are you an Ant or a Grasshopper? As Frank Sinatra sang, everyone knows that ant can't move a rubber tree plant, but he's got high hopes!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let's Get Fiscal

Please realize that when the government spends money, it comes from the American taxpayers. They are spending OUR money. As citizens of this country, we not only have a right to demand responsible spending, it is our duty. We the People ARE the government; those folks in Washington are simply representatives who are supposed to work for us.

I don't understand the intricacies of the federal budget or the "house of cards" economy, but some financial basics apply to government spending the same as they do to household spending. The principle of not having more going out than coming in is a good example.

As of this morning, the Senate has passed a bill to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out Wall Street. Like anyone responsible for a household budget, I think that something else is going to have to give. This money (or much of it) could come from other areas of the budget instead of raising taxes on already overburdened taxpayers.

So let's see where we're spending, shall we?

Right at the top is financing the "War on Terror". This includes both Iraq and Afghanistan. With enactment of the FY2008 Supplemental and FY2009 Bridge Fund(H.R. 2642/P.L. 110-252) on June 30, 2008, Congress has approved a total of about $859 billion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks.

Don't get me wrong. I fully support our troops, and I certainly don't advocate cutting spending that impacts their safety. But we were told, among other lies, that Iraqi oil was going to pay for this war. Now we see our own economy in real trouble, and the Iraqi government has billions in recent oil revenue surplus, much of which also came from us paying the highest oil prices in history. The American people should not be gouged at all, let alone twice, particularly at a time when oil companies are reporting record profits. Now that Iraq has gotten its oil production and exports back online, they should take over the cost of reconstruction at the very least.

According to Senator Joe Biden during tonight's VP debate, we've spent more in Iraq in 3 weeks than in Afghanistan since 2001. Recent reports are that Al Queda is rebuilding their stronghold there, bolstered by support from Pakistan. Considering the facts that these are the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks and Osama Bin Laden is still at large, we should move troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan as soon as feasible. There's no doubt in my mind that the repercussions of the Bush Doctrine will require our military presence in that region for quite some time, which will cost taxpayers even more.

Next is the "War on Drugs". The mainstream media conveniently forgets that we are currently financing three failing wars, not just two. Check the War on Drugs Clock to see money spent on the War on Drugs this year.

So how about we stop funding DEA raids on the sick and dying? Yearly since 2003, Rep. Hinchey has offered an amendment to the federal appropriations bills that would prohibit the DEA from spending taxpayer money to raid, arrest, or prosecute medical marijuana users or their caregivers in the 12 states that have legalized medical marijuana, but it has never passed.

While we're at it, why not legalize cannabis altogether? Not only would eliminating the enormous cost of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating thousands relieve some of our financial distress, it would open the way for an economic boom that's as GREEN as it gets. There are 2 sides to that shiny coin: marijuana regulation and industrial hemp.

If marijuana were regulated in the same manner as tobacco or alcohol, for instance, the tax revenues from its sale could turn the huge loss into a profit. I'm not the first to suggest this; in June 2005, notable economist Milton Friedman and over 500 of his colleagues wrote An Open Letter to the President, Congress, Governors, and State Legislatures projecting $10-$14 billion annually in savings and revenue from legalization of cannabis.

Legalization could provide thousands of new jobs, from farms to transportation to advertising to sales. Marijuana prohibition takes valuable resources away from law enforcement that could be used much more productively to pursue other more serious criminals. The arrest and prosecution of 734,000 people on marijuana charges, almost 90% of which are for possession alone, costs taxpayers between $7.5 billion and $10 billion annually (NORML Report on Sixty Years of Marijuana Prohibition in the U.S.). More people are arrested on marijuana charges each year than for all violent crimes combined (Federal Bureau of Investigation table 29). It just makes more sense financially, particularly in rough economic times such as these, to abandon this failed prohibition policy.

Industrial hemp (by definition, industrial hemp refers to those strains of cannabis sativa l. containing less than 1 percent THC, a psychoactive compound) could help solve a number of issues. Nearly every country in the world has legalized hemp production––the United States is a rare exception, with more than $6 million in imports annually. Incredibly, hemp is the only crop that is legal for Americans to import yet illegal to grow. David Bronner, President of both the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, says, "Industrial hemp is about sustainable agriculture that saves our forests, reduces use of agricultural chemicals, and cuts carbon emissions by replacing petroleum-based products like fiberglass in insulation and natural fiber composites." Renewable, fast-growing hemp could allow major industries to reduce their dependence on nonrenewable, fast-disappearing resources and move toward sustainable production. Hemp fiber offers greater durability and breathability than cotton, which accounts for 25 percent of the pesticides sprayed on the world's crops.

The most successful emerging industrial use of hemp fiber is in the automobile industry. "Biocomposites" of nonwoven hemp matting and polypropylene or epoxy are pressed into parts such as door panels and luggage racks, replacing heavier and less safe fiberglass composites. European hemp fiber made into biocomposites by Flexform in Indiana has been used in more than a million cars and trucks in North America. Automotive applications alone are expected to push European hemp cultivation to over 100,000 acres by 2010. Emerging technology for injection molding of natural fibers is expected to accelerate growth of this sector.

Hemp grown for both seed and biomass has a stalk yield of up to 3.5 tons per acre, which would make it an economical source of cellulose for ethanol production. Farmers in the Midwest could welcome hemp as a profitable addition to their marginally profitable soybean and corn rotations.

Hemp oil contains the most EFAs of any nut or seed oil, with the omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs occurring in the nutritionally optimal 1:3 ratio. As a bonus it offers the higher-potency omega derivatives GLA and SDA.

Most industrial hemp facts above were copied from

Hemp is Hip, Hot and Happening So Why Are American Farmers Being Left Out? - Utne, September-October 2004 (Vote Hemp)

So my suggestion is for our government to rein in spending by ending the "War on (some) Drugs" and taking the "War on Terror" to the terrorists in Afghanistan. I'm sure that there are many other ways that spending could be cut, such as cutting the heavy subsidization of corn crops. I'll leave that to others more educated on those subjects. After all, this is just my opinion.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sold - To Big Oil

Sold to Big Oil

Standing before a room of oil company executives in June, John McCain flip-flopped and declared support for coastal oil drilling. Now the Washington Post is reporting that, within days, oil and gas execs ponied up nearly $1 million to elect McCain.1 It's another piece of evidence that in a McCain White House, oil companies will call the shots—just as they have with President Bush.

Yesterday, MoveOn members jumped into action in response to the Post story, placing "For Sale" signs on McCain headquarters in 10 battleground states to call public attention to it.2 At the same time, McCain made our point for us, holding a photo-op yesterday in front of a California oil well and renewing his push for offshore drilling.3

McCain's hoping to use gas prices as a wedge issue to win the election. That's why it's so critical that we keep spreading the message that McCain's been heavily influenced by the oil companies—and so we can't count on him to solve the energy crisis. When people think of Bush, they think "oil," but that's not true of McCain yet—even though his energy policy is almost identical to Bush's and his campaign is literally run by oil lobbyists!4

Here's a video that makes the case, from our friends at Progressive Accountability. Please check it out, then forward it to a few friends, post it on a blog, or stick it on your Facebook page.

Click here to watch the video: McCain: 29 Guesses video Click here

The energy crisis is shaping up to be a decisive issue in the election. MoveOn's ongoing campaign on the energy crisis has two goals: 1) highlight the progressive solution—a huge plan to shift our economy to clean energy, prevent climate change, and create millions of jobs, and 2) work together to block McCain and the Republicans from pushing gimmicks like drilling to win votes.

Please forward this email to your friends and family to spread the word about John McCain's ties to big oil companies.

Thanks for all you do.

–Noah, Daniel, Tanya, Karin and the rest of the team

Sources: 1. "Industry Gushed Money After Reversal on Drilling," Washington Post, July 27, 2008

2. "Activist group protests at McCain headquarters," WHP CBS 21 Harrisburg, July 28, 2008

3. "Offshore Drilling is Something We Have to Do," Time Magazine, July 28, 2008

4. "Oil Money: John McCain's Close Ties to the Petroleum Industry," Campaign Money Watch, July 11, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vacation karma

This is just a small addition to my last blog entry. It seems I should keep my complaints to myself, since I was just asked to cancel my vacation in August. Seems too many of my co-workers are having babies and/or family issues for management to handle. It's a good thing that I don't have any medical issues or family, I guess. (Right, like I don't have any of that to deal with, especially now!) The resentment seethes inside, though. When it comes to a decision to take vacation or lose my job, looks like the whole thing is a moot point. Guess I better stop complaining about work!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some random thoughts on vacations

I recently had a week off from work, but my husband gets fewer vacation days than I do, so he was working all week. He works 3rd shift, and normally the difference in our schedules works for both of us. It was difficult to have so much free time on my hands while being quiet so that he could sleep. Finally, I started reading a thick book, a refuge from boredom familiar from my youth. As the week wore on, though, I found myself irritated by this reminder of my younger years. With my fair skin and tendency to heat exhaustion, I was usually to be found inside the house. Our often weekly visits to the library provided me with the opportunity to escape into any one of the big pile of books I picked. I do not regret the hours spent with my nose in a book; they have served me well over the years. But even a favorite activity can lose its appeal when it is repeated often. I'm an Aries; I need action! Growing up poor in a rural area didn't leave many options for summer entertainment. As Jack Nicholson says in As Good as It Gets, not all of us grew up with summers at the lake and noodle salad. I don't remember once in my childhood taking a family vacation. There were occasional camping trips at a nearby state park, which was also where we went to swim for free until the lake became clogged with "seaweed". Rural means in the country, so there was no city pool for us to go to every day to hang out. Even if there had been, the price of a pool pass would have been out of reach for a family of 7 on minimum wage. I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually gone somewhere on vacation since I was an adult: a trip to Bermuda, where I spent the entire 3 days sick in bed at the hotel alone; a short cruise to the Bahamas, which was a blast until I got sun poisoning; and our honeymoon in Vegas, a week of bliss except for the abscessed tooth and subsequent yeast infection. Wow, I didn't realize I'd been sick every time until I wrote that. The first two were sales incentive prizes won by the man I lived with then, and I saved for several years to pay for Vegas. Another thing that started to annoy me during my recent week off was the constant repetition in the news of the buzzword "staycation". This word was coined to describe a vacation at home by those who think everyone in America is living the dream. I read several articles with suggestions for taking a "staycation", and it got under my skin enough to prompt this blog! There are several reasons for my annoyance. 1) I work at home. How refreshing is it to vacation where you work? 2) I live in the country. It's hard to act like a tourist in your own city when there isn't a city nearby. I'm always a tourist in any city. 3) I'm not wealthy. Who can afford to hire maid service or a personal chef? One of the advantages of a "staycation" is not spending money that you don't have. If I had that kind of money, I'd go to Aruba instead. 4) I don't have children. Must every facet of life be centered around making the kiddies happy? Doesn't anyone realize that households without children are the majority? 5) I know no one who vacations in the South of France, the Caribbean, or Cancun regularly (or ever). While the middle class starts getting accustomed to having less money and being squeezed down to lower class (think Clark Griswold moving in with Cousin Eddie), millions of Americans are now living in desperate times. The news media report "the hottest new trend" while ignoring the alarming cause: billions of dollars spent on two wars that cannot be won. Forgot about the War on Drugs? 6) Who put the idea in my head that I need to go somewhere on vacation, anyways? It's everywhere in popular culture nowadays. I think it may have started in the 1950's. Curiously, Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956 to begin work on the interstate highway system, the same year The Dinah Shore Chevy Show started. On this show, Shore made popular the iconic jingle "See the USA in Your Chevrolet". With the new freeways, previously isolated Americans could travel much more quickly across the country in low-priced automobiles. Remember, too, that this was the post-WWII economy, which was booming. Most families had a single bread-winner, Dad. The contrast to today's economy, double-income households, crumbling infrastructure, and general lifestyle is dramatic. Ironically, the very people who promoted big family vacations, the government and car manufacturers, are the ones who have made them unaffordable to all but the truly wealthy. Even though I know that I should be content with puttering around the house for a week and grateful to have a break from my job, I dream of a "real" vacation to Hawaii or Aruba. My husband and I had a long talk the other night, and he feels the same way. Next year is our fifth wedding anniversary, so we discussed the possibility of going back there for a week if we can afford to fly. We also talked about taking a cruise to Bermuda, since he doesn't feel comfortable yet to fly over water, although we won't celebrate our August anniversary there because of hurricane season. We can drive to Baltimore, the closest port for Bermuda cruises, possibly at the end of May. So I will be spending some time over the next few weeks researching the least expensive way to travel back to the island where I lived for 2 years a lifetime ago. That should keep me busy until my next week of vacation, the second week of August, when my husband and I plan to actually try a "staycation" by taking short day trips. My 1995 Geo Prizm still gets at least 35 mpg even after nearly 105,000 miles (which is why I find the new-car mpg disgusting and won't replace my car until I have to and I can get one that doesn't use bloody oil). Since the only day-trip planned for the weekend of my last vacation was canceled because of rain, maybe we'll go to the Great Lakes Renaissance Faire and I'll get to travel not just in space but in time as well. Maybe then I'll feel more refreshed and able to take another several months in my tower!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

On Universal Healthcare

We keep hearing it, over and over. The crisis in healthcare is that millions are uninsured. Provide insurance to the masses, and the healthcare crisis will be solved. We're told that making insurance available and affordable is the main priority. To someone like me, who is "lucky" enough to be covered by affordable health insurance (courtesy of my husband's union job!), this simply doesn't make sense. I'll admit that, for short-term major medical issues such as a hernia or appendicitis, having insurance can save thousands of dollars. But when it comes to actual healthcare, particularly "alternative" medicine or preventative care, the insurance is sometimes actually an obstacle. Before I got married, I had insurance through my employer. It cost me $152 per bi-weekly pay, and that's with half of the premium paid by my employer. So roughly $300 per month, about 1/4 of my earnings, went to cover just me. Besides monthly chiropractic/massage therapy and a yearly gynecologist visit, I rarely used my health insurance. Both of these were fully covered by my policy, and my cost was a copay of $15 per visit. After getting married, I was eligible for coverage on my husband's insurance policy. Although it was much less costly (he pays less than half per month for coverage for both of us than I did a week for just me), there were restrictions. Only 10 chiropractic treatments per year, massage therapy no longer covered at all, and a deductible to be met. The insurance paid $0.02 (yes, that's 2 cents!) for each visit, and the rest of the bill was my responsibility. Because I am employed, the insurance company even denied a claim, demanding proof that I had no other insurance! It took 3 months to straighten it out. The entire health insurance industry is a nightmare. Convoluted policies that require a legal team to decipher, copays and deductibles, restrictions and lifetime limits, and qualifying conditions all make for a maze that can quickly confuse anyone. A typo or misdiagnosis on a claim can result in denial of payment which can take months to sort out, resulting in damaged credit scores. HMOs denying care that doctors deem necessary, skyrocketing monthly premiums, and employers changing insurance providers on a yearly basis are enough to challenge even Ghandi's peaceful demeanor. Pre-existing conditions are a big problem and sometimes impossible to avoid. I had major dental issues for several years, at a time when I had absolutely no dental insurance. Knowing that I would be married soon and have coverage, I put off having major work done until after the wedding. In fact, I had an abscessed tooth on my wedding day! As soon as my dental coverage went into effect, I immediately got started with the needed work. The dentist agreed that pulling all of my bottom teeth and getting dentures was the best option, so we went forward. Because there was a yearly limit of $1000, and the cutoff date was January 1, we had to wait to complete the dentures until after the new year. Unfortunately, my husband's employer switched insurance companies without warning at the end of the year, so the new insurance company determined that I now had a pre-existing condition (no teeth) and denied payment. After the waiting and suffering, I ended up paying out of pocket! Then there's the "preferred" provider restrictions. When I first began to realize that I probably had multiple chemical sensitivities, I had to search far and wide to find a doctor that even knew about this condition. I luckily found a top specialist in the field only an hour's drive from home, but of course he was not in my insurance company's "circle" of providers. So I paid the $400 consultation fee out of my own pocket and then all of the fees for testing. Had I not been able to save for several months, I could not have afforded it. Since he is one of only two specialists in this field in the entire state, neither of which were covered by my insurance at that time, a "preferred" provider was nonexistent. Without my own money, I would have been out of luck and undiagnosed. Most insurance policies make no provision for preventative medicine; they simply won't pay for it. I have a prescription card, but it won't pay for dietary supplements or herbal remedies. Try getting a so-called health insurance provider to pay for acupuncture, Reiki, chiropractic, or holistic treatment. Yes, there are some who do, but they are increasingly hard to find, and most of us don't have the option to choose the insurance provided by our employer. Even better, try getting a cash discount from a healthcare provider that accepts insurance. When I found out that my insurance paid only 2 cents (less than the cost of the stamp to bill them) to my chiropractor, I thought it would be less hassle for everyone if I simply paid cash and avoided the insurance altogether. However, it seems that the insurance companies get a huge discount instead, so my bill would have been increased by the amount the chiropractor "writes off", another $45 or so per visit. THIS is where the crisis originates. The price is different if you have insurance. Why? Another major problem that I see is people who can't afford to miss work if they are sick. Having insurance is not going to help the working single mother with the flu feed her children or pay her bills. With the threat of pandemic flu looming increasingly, the health of millions could be compromised quickly unless a solution is found. Education must be part of that solution, but the economic factors should also play a large part. This national debate about universal healthcare is really about insurance, not healthcare. No one is talking about a plan for health. There's a big difference between healthy people and a healthy bottom line for insurance companies.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Racism vs Sexism

As Carlos Mencia has pointed out, when Obama becomes President, racism in America will be officially over, at least towards African-Americans. I myself have made comments of that sort about racism on this very blog. So when I read this post, it reminded me of something else I've been saying about the Democrat candidates. That's the fact that black men were given the right to vote in this country by the Fifteenth Amendment long before the Nineteenth Amendment extended that right to women. Racism may be dying, but sexism is alive and well. Yes, there are still pockets of racism in certain regions, but sexism knows no such regional boundaries. Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment expired? Not enough states ratified it in the time period allowed, even when the deadline was extended, which is not surprising, given that there weren't many women in Congress at the time. Maybe that's why the pay disparity between the sexes is still acceptable in corporate America. While I would love to vote for the female candidate to see the first woman President, I cannot in good conscience support that particular candidate. I think a good many people who have voted for her, especially in the past couple of weeks, have actually been voting against Obama (see my previous remark about pockets of racism). I really see no difference between her and the Republican candidate. I vote according to whether I think the person is the best candidate for the job, contrary to the popular "vote for the candidate you'd rather have a beer with". I don't drink beer, and I don't drink coffee, either. I'm voting for Obama not because he's black, but because I believe he's the best chance this country has for real change. As Dennis Miller used to say, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sacrificing Infrastructure for a "Feel Good" Moment

Photobucket Read more here. At a time when the infrastructure of OUR country is crumbling, is it really a wise idea to divert those funds? There are so many reasons that this proposal is a bad idea, I can't imagine why any reasonably intelligent person would support it. Bravo to Obama for calling it what it is. Please let your elected representatives in DC know that you disagree with sacrificing America's infrastructure in exchange for even bigger profits for oil companies.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


In yesterday's mail, I received a lovely letter and $20 gift certificate from Swanson Health Products in response to the mention in the blog post below. Kudos to their Internet Public Relations Specialist for responding so quickly. The letter was sent out the same day that I posted. For more info about Swanson Health Products, please see their website at I've had nothing but good experience with this company.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Down with Dew, Up with Supplements

Once again, I have kicked my caffeine addiction. We have stopped buying Mountain Dew completely, opting for Jones root beer made with pure cane sugar. It's also a small start to eliminating high fructose corn syrup from our diets. Now that the weather has warmed up, lemonade and iced tea will again be our drinks of choice. Two weeks ago, I also started taking more daily supplements. Now every morning I take 2 OneSource multivitamins for women and one each of 5-HTP, Triple Magnesium complex, Ubiquinol, and DL-Phenylalanine, all washed down with a chocolate Ensure. The last 3 supplements are new, along with the fact that I realized I was supposed to take 2 multivitamins daily instead of just 1. ALWAYS read the label! Swanson Vitamins website (where I ordered mine) says this about the new supplements: Triple Magnesium complex - Features magnesium oxide, citrate, and aspartate for maximum bioavailability. The best supplemental source of magnesium for a strong, healthy body. One of the most important minerals in the diet, magnesium is essential for strong muscles and bones, cardiovascular health, and nervous system function. Our Triple Magnesium Complex provides a full day's supply of this vital mineral from three distinct sources to promote optimum bioavailability. Ubiquinol - CoQ10 finally comes of age--with new Ubiquinol! You know all about the heart-healthy benefits of the vitamin-like nutrient CoQ10, also known as ubiquinone, but did you know that our body has to break this nutrient down to create a useable molecule called ubiquinol? In fact, over 90% of the CoQ10 stored in the body is in the form of ubiquinol. Kaneka Nutrients, the world's leading manufacturer of pharmaceutical-quality, bio-identical CoQ10, recognized this, and after a decade of research and development, they created the first stabilized, bio-identical supplemental form of Ubiquinol. Produced from 100% natural CoQ10 through a biological fermentation process, Kaneka's Ubiquinol achieves higher elevations of circulating CoQ10 in the bloodstream with just a fraction of the dose required when using a regular CoQ10 supplement. This is especially beneficial for individuals over 50 years of age and those who have substantially lower CoQ10 levels. We proudly welcome Kaneka's 100% Pure & Natural Ubiquinol to our family of Swanson CoQ10 supplements. DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) - Get a nutritional boost for mobility and mental health with DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA)! A great source of amino acid precursors for neurotransmitters that help regulate mood and other mental functions, DL-Phenylalanine also provides valuable support for joint flexibility. All of these supplements are recommended for fibromyalgia patients in the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing. I decided to take the DLPA because this book recommends it for pain control. Since I've been taking these new supplements, I've felt better overall. My daily pain level has decreased, while my energy level has increased. I've had only 1 rough night so far, but I also got a bottle of L-Tryptophan to take in those cases. I took some melatonin the next night and managed to get back to a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I'm going to start the Ultimate Probiotic Formula, also from Swanson. I imagine that there may be a purge, so I wanted to wait until I felt better to start taking this on a weekend. I'll update in a couple of weeks. Here's to health!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Racism Officially Dead!

Racism is officially dead. It must be, when the candidate who could be America's first African-American President is being accused of elitism. How could he be elite if racism is still alive? The irony is so delicious! I agree with Jon Stewart. I WANT my president to be superior. I want a President who is multicultural and can speak several languages. I want a President who is familiar with the teachings of many religions. I want a President who is confident enough to lead this country with a vision, one that doesn't just prop up less than 1% of the country. Heck, it ought to be a good thing when someone says "no thanks" to a cup of coffee because he prefers healthy orange juice instead. As regards the "bitter" statement, I think Barack Obama is more in touch with the majority of people in the Heartland than he's being given credit for. He was trying to explain some pretty major differences between the people living on the coasts and those who live in the center of this enormously diverse country. They don't understand us any more than we understand them, but he gets it. As someone who has been accused of having a "superiority complex" much of my life, I heartily support standing up for oneself when attacked in this manner. Statements taken out of context and repeated over and over should be corrected and put into context properly. Is this the best anyone has to suggest that Barack Obama should not be our next president???

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Rivers Are A-Risin'

3-22-08floodmap As of 3/22/08

iamamericamapsmall As predicted

The first time I saw an EarthChanges map, something inside me clicked. A recognition of truth, if you will. Over the years, I've held steady in the conviction that the U.S. will physically change dramatically in my lifetime. When I saw the first image above in a news story a couple of weeks ago (days before my 40th birthday), I was struck by how obvious it is that these changes are already visibly happening.

The second image above comes from the I Am America map, which predicts less drastic changes than some Maps of the Future. Whether or not any of the predictions are completely correct, the fact that large parts of the U.S. have been flooding and continue to flood is inescapable. Those who do not heed the warnings that sounded loudly when Hurricane Katrina struck can only plead stupidity, in my opinion. MOVE AWAY!

When my husband and I first started discussing buying a home, and again when we considered moving out West, these maps gave proof that we are currently living in one of the more stable areas of the country. We've already seen an increase in the flooding in our area, but our home is situated in a high area topologically. There are no large bodies of water nearby, and we have been working diligently on redirecting runoff to work to our advantage.

In an area where manufacturing jobs have been dwindling, business is booming at my husband's workplace. His company produces pumps and basins for municipal and residential use worldwide. Rumors that they are going out of business are met with a hearty laugh in our household. Only engineers working to hurriedly build levees are busier right now.

If I seem a bit smug, it's only because I believe that knowledge is an important tool, one that we have been putting to good use in making decisions that affect our very survival. With some knowledge and preparation, many "disasters" need not ever happen. Human beings need to quit arguing about whether things like global warming are real and start reacting to the events around them as though their survival depended on it. The rivers are a-rising!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Crystals in the news

'Nanominerals' influence Earth systems from ocean to atmosphere to biosphere

The ubiquity of tiny particles of minerals--mineral nanoparticles--in oceans and rivers, atmosphere and soils, and in living cells are providing scientists with new ways of understanding Earth's workings. Our planet's physical, chemical, and biological processes are influenced or driven by the properties of these minerals. So states a team of researchers from seven universities in a paper published in this week's issue of the journal Science: "Nanominerals, Mineral Nanoparticles, and Earth Systems." -------------------- Hmmm, these would be crystals. Glad I'm friends with so many of them!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Digging Out

After 2 days of snow and wind, the sun is shining (blindingly!) and the storm is over. We were lucky to have only piles of snow to deal with, no electric or satellite outages. John is still clearing the driveway, but it's good for both of us for him to be able to get outside. Check out the photos from yesterday and today that I've uploaded to my Flickr page. Some of them appear in the stream on this blog, over to the right. I hope everyone else made it through this storm without any problems. John had a rough ride home Saturday morning, but he took it slow. Luckily, at that time of the morning there isn't a lot of traffic anyways. He's really pleased with how his truck handles in this weather, even without any weight in the back. I'm just glad he made it home, since it kept snowing all day! Although this is nothing comparatively, it did remind me that the biggest blizzard I've experienced was 30 years ago in January. I can't imagine anything topping that one!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Now I Remember

The reason I didn't set an account up here was because it's not a news reader. On Bloglines, I can read news stories and then comment on them. Here, it's not so easy. I'll try to get the hang of it. Anyways, here I am!