Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Ladies and gents: Blackle is possibly the coolest thing since... well... since solar panels. Check this out:

"If Google had a black screen, taking into account the huge number of times this search engine is used, 750 mega watt hours of energy per year would be saved. In recognition of this fact, Google has created a black version of its search engine, called Blackle, with exactly the same functions as the white version, but with lower energy consumption. Bookmark it today and pass it along:
If you are suspicious, read this first http://www.blackle.com/about/"

Math skills

All right, I'm no mathematician, but if I rummage through the remains of my 1st grade brain, I seem to recall that 16 is less than 20, which is less than 24. Have I been severely misinformed or have I been living in a self-created delusional world where 24 is greater than 16? I don't know which it is, but it simply has to be one of the two. Otherwise, I would not find myself continually disappointed when I reach into the variety pack box of Quaker granola bars only to pull out yet another oatmeal raisin bar. I mean, the box plainly states: 16 oatmeal raisin bars; 20 peanut butter chocolate chip bars; and 24 chocolate chip bars. Why is it that if there are truly 24 chocolate chip granola bars, I can never sink my teeth into one? Perhaps my roommates have been sabotaging me because they know that chocolate chip is my favorite. Come on, everybody knows that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Not much has changed

On Monday, in true spirit of the holiday, I listened to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech "Beyond Vietnam." Although - as you might infer from the title - Dr. King was speaking of Vietnam and the ill-begotten notions of war justifications, the speech uncannily portrays what is going on in our days. Simply replace "Vietnam" with a litany of words - terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and on... and on... As many of you may know, I am borderline obsessed with promoting peace. Dr. King's speech is so moving and rings so true, reminding me that there is something to fight for.

In his speech, Dr. King talks of the war in Vietnam (which we can replace with more relevant issues) as being "but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit." If we ignore {Vietnam}, we will only find ourselves dealing with the next Vietnam. If we are listless, refusing to act, the US will grow concerned with one country after the next. He warns that "we will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy." John F. Kennedy said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." This is the role our nation has assumed time after time.

King states: "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
"A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

He goes on to emphasize that this positive revolution of values will be the proverbial sword hanging over communism. We will never defeat the forces of communism, terrorism - whatever we believe America is fighting for today - by weilding physical power via guns, bombs, and torture. "These are days," Dr. King says, "which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness." Instead, lack of education and ignorance breed hatred toward people we have never met, causing us to act in irrational ways. Our best weapons for peace, so to speak, are actions to ameliorate those very conditions in which negative forces thrive: poverty, illteracy, injustice, and insecurity. "Communism [terrorism] is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated."

"Therefore, Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

If I were president...

"instead of spending billions on the war,we can use some of that money, in the ghetto."

-Wyclef Jean

If I were president...

If I Was President by Wyclef Jean

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pandemic tag

It appears that there is a highly virulent strain of blog tag going around. Alas, I have come down with this dreaded disease and must succumb to its demands. I must admit that this disease almost killed me because I am absolutely horrible at delimiting my life and making lists.

8 things I'm passionate about:

1. Peace 2. Poverty 3. Culture 4. Gospel 5. Languages 6. Nature 7. Learning 8. Family

8 things I want to do before I die:

1. Get a PhD 2. Start a non-profit when I see a need that is not being met 3. Travel to Thailand, China, Afghanistan, and New Zealand 4. Have a family 5. Create a real community/sense of social capital 6. Go to culinary school 7. See Angkor Watt 8. Do something significant to increase peace in this world

8 books I have read recently:

1. Three cups of tea 2. East of Eden 3. The color of water 4. Eat, pray, love 5. Stargirl 6. Big box swindle 7. War and peace 8. A separate peace

8 things I often say:

1. Crimeny 2. Oh, dear 3. Seriously 4. Also... 5. Blast 6. What in the world? 7. Indeed 8. Eh

8 things that attract me to friends:

1. Quick to laugh 2. Intelligence 3. Good conversationalist 4. Sincerity 5. Desire to make things happen/change systems 6. Common interests 7. Selflessness 8. Openness to try new things and help me to try to new things/think about things in a different way

8 songs and albums I could listen to over and over (Ok, this one sucks):

1. Guster - Lost and gone forever 2. Jarabe de Palo 3. Feist - I feel it all (yeah, Zina) 4. Pretty much any Mana 5. Martin Sexton - Angeline 6. Mason Jennings - Killer's Creek 7. Michael Jackson - Billie Jean 8. Erin McKeown - Hum

8 Random things about me:

1. Folding clothes is NOT my hidden talent 2. It bothers me if the shower curtain is even slightly ajar when I am showering 3. I sleep with one eye open... yeah, you heard me 4. I hate pie 5. When I was 11, I was hit by a car while walking to my friend's birthday party, but I really wanted to go to the party, so I didn't tell my parents or go to the hospital 6. I alter my routine every morning to prevent Alzheimer's 7. I went through a phase where I only spoke in an Irish accent and almost convinced myself I was Irish 8. I don't like talking on the phone if anybody can hear me, which is difficult since I talk loudly on the phone

8 people I tag:

Heidi, Jess, Mel, Laura, Katie, Nic, Ash (because the more you're tagged, the more likely you are to finally give in), Free people

Friday, January 11, 2008


I would say that pretty much every instant of my family photo session was hysterical. It would likely suffice to say that we had our family picture taken at Kiddie Kandids, but I will trek on to give you the gory details of good intentions gone awry. My grandma had taken a four generation picture at Kiddie Kandids (which, if you can't tell from the name, specializes in taking pictures of young children... candidly). Apparently, she was so enthused with the whole ensemble that for Christmas she provided each family with an all-expenses-paid trip to the land o' kid photos.
The day of the photo shoot found several members of my family in a not overly happy mood; this mood was unfortunately only exacerbated when we arrived and my siblings glanced nervously at the overstuffed pictures of little boys in cowboy hats and little girls in daisy costumes.
I suppose the kiddie receptionist was at a loss over what to do with a family of 8 that had no young children. She decided to take the information of my youngest brother, since that was the closest she would ever come to a kiddie in my family. My brother must have been flustered by the abundance of naked children on the walls, because he spelled his name T-A-L-M-A-G, and proceeded to tell the lady that he was born in 1962. She said, "Oh, how old does that make you?" to which he replied, "5... I mean 8... I mean, I'm 11." We awaited our turn reticently, managing to peek at the props around the corners, such as mini fire engines, feather boas, and tricycles. Our first assignment was to choose a backdrop. The options were plentiful, ranging from the pretentious "Lord Nelson" (better known as gray with hideous purple splotches), "Winter Wonderland" (in case we wanted to fool people into thinking that our family abides in an interminable winter), and "Walk in Central Park." We chose brown, or what we chose to call brown - because I'm sure that it had some highfalutin name. Our photographer was very nice, although she did seem to think that my brother, Kimball, and I were married and that Talmage was our son. That left us all baffled and confused as we tried to do the math on how old I would have to be in order to have birthed a now 11-year-old boy. The photographer only brought out the multi-colored duster once to make us smile. Guess we were unusually good at sitting still and smiling. As I type, the repercussions of this experience sit primly on my bedside table, ensuring many laughs for years to come.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Love the fam

As tends to happen when I return from visiting my family, nostalgia has snuggled up to me as I lie awake in bed thinking of the fun times with them. And so, in selfish manner, this post is dedicated mostly to myself so that I can enjoy their faces if in no other medium than E.

Monday, January 7, 2008

"Si Dios quiere..."

... commonly results in groans and eye rolling from missionaries. Many missionaries would retort under their breath, "Of course God wants you to [get baptized/go to church/stop smoking]!" This phraseology is not restricted to Christianity or to Latino culture: Muslims are frequently found injecting their sentences with the sacred phrase "Sa Allah" or "Inshallah."
God willing - an interesting saying that quite certainly has religious undertones, yet is not nearly as religious as it connotes. Many cultures tack this onto the end of a sentence habitually, without thinking directly of God or Allah as they speak it. Yet it most definitely indirectly implicates Divinity, knowing that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. This phrase serves as a reminder that, despite our hard work, commitment, plans, and desires, the future is not our own. This is not meant to depress or to echo futility; it is simply to say that our concrete is not God's concrete - there is always room for the unexpected. And, often, the unexpected leads us down paths we may have never explored. The unexpected can bring us to our life purpose; it can usher in cloaked blessings that we are not yet ready to accept or understand.

I know several people - including myself - who have been trying to discover what they can do to make the world a better place. We think big-scale, we think world-scale. Often, we begin to believe that unless our actions and efforts are grandiose and global, they are not worthy. We want to utterly change the world, and we convince ourselves that our small, local actions don't make a difference. Last night I watched a movie about a man who has done great things for himself and for others. At the age of 14, he had his leg amputated above the knee due to bone cancer. The doctors told him he would no longer be able to do the activities he loved. That point of his life became the crux where expected turned to unexpected, where he uttered his "Si Dios quiere." His "Si Dios quiere/Inshallah" moment thrust him forward to an unknown world where he would go on to design a prosthetic leg fit for rock climbing, wake boarding, telemark skiing, and cycling. He had no schooling, but he researched and studied so that he could develop this knee that would allow him and others to function as "normal" people.
As I watched, I thought about how every person truly wants to do great things. "Great things" are self-defined, and luckily, each person is endowed with different talents. As I have watched people throughout the years, I have begun to realize that doing great things does not require us to work on a global scale. "Great things" are where our talents, a desire to serve, and our own happiness intersect. I believe that doing great things also requires that sense of "Si Dios quiere" where we are humble enough to take the unexpected turns, realizing that we are not the owners of our future. It requires us looking ahead to what is opened to us, not back on what we had planned and worked for.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


This may seem a wee bit non-traditional to you all, but I'm all about people giving me new year's resolutions, and about giving other people resolutions. It widens your perspective and helps you act outside your comfort zone. [Most of my resolutions came from my sister.] So, I hope that you all are prepared (all 3 of you). I propose that everybody watch "The Story of Stuff" online: http://www.storyofstuff.com/. I am posting here 10 ways that you can help reduce consumption and protect the planet (also on the website). If you will indulge me and my resolution request, choose at least 3 ways (either listed here or that you think of yourself) to limit the amount of stuff we extract, produce, distribute, consume, and dispose. I would love to hear what you choose - especially new ideas. If you have any resolutions for me, I'm all for the challenge.

1. Power down! A great deal of the resources we use and the waste we create is in the energy we consume. Look for opportunities in your life to significantly reduce energy use: drive less, fly less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food (food takes energy to grow, package, store and transport), wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle. All these things save energy and save you money. And, if you can switch to alternative energy by supporting a company that sells green energy to the grid or by installing solar panels on your home, bravo!
2. Waste less. Per capita waste production in the U.S. just keeps growing. There are hundreds of opportunities each day to nurture a Zero Waste culture in your home, school, workplace, church, community. This takes developing new habits which soon become second nature. Use both sides of the paper, carry your own mugs and shopping bags, get printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced, compost food scraps, avoid bottled water and other over packaged products, upgrade computers rather than buying new ones, repair and mend rather than replace….the list is endless! The more we visibly engage in re-use over wasting, the more we cultivate a new cultural norm, or actually, reclaim an old one!
3. Talk to everyone about these issues. At school, your neighbors, in line at the supermarket, on the bus…A student once asked Cesar Chavez how he organized. He said, “First, I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” “No,” said the student, “how do you organize?” Chavez answered, “First I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” You get the point. Talking about these issues raises awareness, builds community and can inspire others to action.
4. Make Your Voice Heard. Write letters to the editor and submit articles to local press. In the last two years, and especially with Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the media has been forced to write about Climate Change. As individuals, we can influence the media to better represent other important issues as well. Letters to the editor are a great way to help newspaper readers make connections they might not make without your help. Also local papers are often willing to print book and film reviews, interviews and articles by community members. Let’s get the issues we care about in the news.
5. DeTox your body, DeTox your home, and DeTox the Economy. Many of today’s consumer products – from children’s pajamas to lipstick – contain toxic chemical additives that simply aren’t necessary. Research online (for example, http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/) before you buy to be sure you’re not inadvertently introducing toxics into your home and body. Then tell your friends about toxics in consumer products. Together, ask the businesses why they’re using toxic chemicals without any warning labels. And ask your elected officials why they are permitting this practice. The European Union has adopted strong policies that require toxics to be removed from many products. So, while our electronic gadgets and cosmetics have toxics in them, people in Europe can buy the same things toxics-free. Let’s demand the same thing here. Getting the toxics out of production at the source is the best way to ensure they don’t get into any home and body.
6. Unplug (the TV and internet) and Plug In (the community). The average person in the U.S. watches T.V. over 4 hours a day. Four hours per day filled with messages about stuff we should buy. That is four hours a day that could be spent with family, friends and in our community. On-line activism is a good start, but spending time in face-to-face civic or community activities strengthens the community and many studies show that a stronger community is a source of social and logistical support, greater security and happiness. A strong community is also critical to having a strong, active democracy.
7. Park your car and walk…and when necessary MARCH! Car-centric land use policies and life styles lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel extraction, conversion of agricultural and wildlands to roads and parking lots. Driving less and walking more is good for the climate, the planet, your health, and your wallet. But sometimes we don’t have an option to leave the car home because of inadequate bike lanes or public transportation options. Then, we may need to march, to join with others to demand sustainable transportation options. Throughout U.S. history, peaceful non-violent marches have played a powerful role in raising awareness about issues, mobilizing people, and sending messages to decision makers.
8. Change your lightbulbs…and then, change your paradigm. Changing lightbulbs is quick and easy. Energy efficient lightbulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional ones. That’s a no-brainer. But changing lightbulbs is just tinkering at the margins of a fundamentally flawed system unless we also change our paradigm. A paradigm is a collection of assumptions, concepts, believes and values that together make up a community’s way of viewing reality. Our current paradigm dictates that more stuff is better, that infinite economic growth is desirable and possible, and that pollution is the price of progress. To really turn things around, we need to nurture a different paradigm based on the values of sustainability, justice, health, and community.
9. Recycle your trash…and, recycle your elected officials. Recycling saves energy and reduces both waste and the pressure to harvest and mine new stuff. Unfortunately, many cities still don’t have adequate recycling systems in place. In that case you can usually find some recycling options in the phone book to start recycling while you’re pressuring your local government to support recycling city-wide. Also, many products – for example, most electronics - are designed not to be recycled or contain toxics so recycling is hazardous. In these cases, we need to lobby government to prohibit toxics in consumer products and to enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws, as is happening in Europe. EPR is a policy which holds producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products, so that electronics company who use toxics in their products, have to take them back. That is a great incentive for them to get the toxics out!
10. Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less. Shopping is not the solution to the environmental problems we currently face because the real changes we need just aren’t for sale in even the greenest shop. But, when we do shop, we should ensure our dollars support businesses that protect the environment and worker rights. Look beyond vague claims on packages like “all natural” to find hard facts. Is it organic? Is it free of super-toxic PVC plastic? When you can, buy local products from local stores, which keeps more of our hard earned money in the community. Buying used items keeps them out of the trash and avoids the upstream waste created during extraction and production. But, buying less may be the best option of all. Less pollution. Less Waste. Less time working to pay for the stuff. Sometimes, less really is more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ring out the old, Ring in the new

In my opinion, there's no better way to ring in the new year than with skis, snowshoes and family (not in any particular order).

This picture looks like an new school version of girls vs. boys.