Thursday, May 31, 2007

Make a Low Impact This Week

For Low Impact Week, I will be visiting a room of my house each day -- to see how I can reduce my impact on the environment

First stop, the bathroom. I am appalled by how many personal care products are cluttering up the medicine cabinet and shelves. It's time to think about what I really need and what I bought on impulse and used only once or twice.

One thing I can do is stop buying plastic throw-away razors and invest in one to last longer than I will. Instead of shaving cream, I'm going to use Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap. Buy it in bulk and it can take care of most cleaning needs, in conjunction with baking soda and vinegar.

I have also switched over to recycled toilet paper this past week. I'm using 7th Generation. It's more expensive, but making a low impact means making some major changes and thinking through the real costs of what we consume. The following is from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) web site:
Toilet Paper
If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees.
One more item before leaving the bathroom -- I have been using chlorine bleach to clean the toilet and for rinsing out the cat box. I read recently that chlorine bleach is not a good thing to inject into what is flowing through the sewer system. Hydrogen bleach is a better choice, supposedly. Here's an article that goes into the chemistry of various bleaching agents. If anyone knows of any good "green" bleaching agents, please post them below -- thanks! And be sure to share what you are doing for Low Impact Week.

Tomorrow -- the bedroom and closets!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thanks Betty Sutton...

...for voting against Bush's no-strings attached war supplemental last week. You represented my best interests, and I'm extremely grateful for it.

I did call her office before the vote and spoke with a pleasant young man. Unfortunately, I forgot to call the office of Senator Sherrod Brown. Guess I expected that he'd not waver to vote against this insane war. Turns out, he and a whole lot of other Democrats, voted to send Bush his money. Clinton and Obama voted No. They were allowed to because they are running for president. The others faced the reality of yet another Bush veto and caved.

When I first heard this news last Friday, I was running reams of angry tirades through the blogging voice in my brain, but decided to go garden instead. This vote, happening right up against the Memorial Day Weekend, was loaded with irony. Vote to fund the troops so they can stay in Iraq to kill and be injured or killed. Or vote against knowing the troops will say in Iraq to kill and be injured or killed.

After three days of active planting and contemplating, I view the vote in tones of downright cynicism. Bush has the power until somebody can find a legal way to get it out of his hands. Push on, Democrats, with your many investigations into corruption, incompetence and illegalities committed by various members of this administration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Trash Disposal in Akron

While some people are not happy with the city's recent switchover to uniform bins for trash and recyclables, others have simply been confused as to how the system works. Last week was "amnesty" trash week, a time to put the residue from spring cleaning out on the curb. But it turns out, people have been hording their trash because they thought the city would only pick up what would fit in their blue bins. An article about this issue appears in today's ABJ here.

For those who aren't in the know about how trash is collected in Akron, visit the city's recycle page. It is clearly stated that large objects can be placed on the curb on any regular trash day, as long as they are three feet away from the trash bin. What can no longer be placed on the curb are bags of trash. Bags of trash can be ripped open by stray animals. The new bins have helped keep unsightly trash from blowing around our neighborhoods.

What I found most interesting in this story is the huge decrease in injuries and time off from the job on the part of sanitation workers. The automated garbage can lifting trucks have meant fewer strained backs and other serious physical problems from a job that means lifting tons of trash every day.

If I were living in another universe, I would want it to be one that paid the people who do the dirtiest jobs the most money. I'm talking about the most undesirable yet absolutely essential to the community's well-being kinds of jobs like sanitation workers and people who have to repair the sewer system.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Visiting the Dead in Akron

Glendale was the first stop today, Akron's greatest and grandest cemetery. This place was hopping, cars flowing in and out. Lots of grave decorations providing color and solace.

I'm somewhat amazed I have relatives here. Not in these ornate miniature Temples for the Dead, however. My ancestors' plot for four is in the Masonic section. Grandpa was a Mason. None of his descendants belong to this organization, once so hugely popular and widespread. The mystery and secrets of Freemasonry attracted followers for centuries. Now the very idea of it seems so quaint, not to mention absurd.

After bestowing geraniums upon my grandfather, grandmother and two uncles, I drove in a little further and found the site of my great grandfather's grave.

Next stop, East Akron Cemetery, "Plots Available," says the sign at the gate. There are very few people visiting here. One forebear is planted here, a great-grandmother or aunt, perhaps? I am not as fluent with my ancestry as my parents are. I did find her grave and placed my last geranium there:

I decided to drive around Goodyear Heights to see if I could find the place I first called home in Akron. It was an apartment on Pondview Drive. My first real memories come from there. I recall sitting on the curb and playing with maple leaf seed pods. Train tracks ran along the bottom of the back yard. Definitely a neighborhood for young couples and people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

There are some pretty awful areas in the Heights -- especially on the western edge of the East Akron Cemetery. Here I found lots of boarded up houses interspersed with other crumbling wrecks that should be boarded up. These are the bits and pieces of Akron that nobody wants to acknowledge. Lots of children out on these shabby and depressing streets.

Finally, I took a spin down Hazel Street, to look for my grandparents old house. Not remembering the street address, I looked for the two distinctive trees in the front yard, but couldn't find the place. Further along, I found the site of a house I once lived in with some friends. We called it our vegetarian commune, with Phil the balladeer, Andy the photographer, Mary the librarian, and several cats. I was the resident performance artist. The whole place went up in flames one Fourth of July. I still have some smoke-stained artifacts from that event.

Memories can't be suppressed on Memorial Day. This is the day we're supposed to honor those who died in various wars. I don't see what is so honorable about dying in combat. Looking back on the wars this country has fought, the only ones that seem somewhat honorable to me are the War of Independence and the World War II. In retrospect, there may have been other less bloody ways to effect change. However, Memorial Day is a day to face up to the carnage of the past.

I grew up watching the ever-increasing body counts displayed on the nightly news. Iraq is deja vu all over again, fast approaching 3500 US soldiers dead and thousands more brutally injured. Over 100 US service people have committed suicide since this current war began, and nobody knows how many more suicide victims from the ranks of the returned veterans. I feel profoundly sorry for all these people -- those cut down before their prime and those who live on, physically and emotionally damaged.

Flags wave over the graves of all who served in the military. Maybe one day there will be flags for all those who served humanity in the ways of peace and negotiation.

There is a play by the brothers Capek, called The Insect Play. It cast a spell over me the first time I read it, and eventually I did create an opportunity to direct it. In the final scene, armies of red and yellow ants do endless battle with one another. There are no good guys or bad guys, just piles of corpses strewn around the ant hills, to be hauled away by the worker ants, while their leaders urge them on to greater glory.

Is war the way humans and other species rid themselves of extraneous young males? Is it driven by territorial instincts? Greed? Is war inevitable or is it something that can eventually be brought to extinction? I'd prefer to think the latter.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gardening weekend

I'm happy to report that all the items I put on the sidewalk for Neighbors Day were eventually carted off to other people's gardens. Last weekend I got the vegetables and herb bed planted, and this one is dedicated to getting the flowers tucked into their beds as well. The end is in sight! I'm down to half a flat of things left to plant tomorrow.

Here's the herb and lettuce bed in the middle of the vegetable garden after one week of growth:

As I worked in the front yard today, I finally had a chance to talk to one of my neighbors. She told me that her family will have to move out of their house. They've been renting for 16 years. Their landlord is going to tear down the house and sell the property, which includes an empty lot on the other side of the neighbor's house. Two houses will be squeezed onto the properties.

Summit Lake was once Akron's outdoor pleasure destination. The homes that were built alongside it were summer cottages on small plots of land. Today's home buyers don't want cozy cottages. So what we get are large houses with very little in the way of yard and garden space.

My neighbors have turned the empty lot into a full garden. They are originally from rural West Virginia, and have had lots of bad luck in their lives. Their country skills have been useful in providing food for the family. I'll be very sad to see them go.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Happy Neighbors Day!

Hello Akron!

How ya doin' Kenmore?

Say Hey, West Summit Lake!!!

I put some garden items out for the neighbors today: violets, ferns, lemon balm, ivy groundcover, sweet woodruff and some seeds and other things. As soon as I put them out there, the rain poured down.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What kind of atheist are you?

Here's a fun self-awareness quiz via Pharyngula. I'm a Scientific Atheist -- what kind are you?

Scientific Atheist


Militant Atheist


Angry Atheist


Apathetic Atheist




Spiritual Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with

Friday Night Kick Back -- You Really Got Me!

Excuse me, but I just have to get the sound of Sanjaya and Joe Perry out of my ears. So here's the real deal. Check out the guy in the crowd dancing with a chef's hat on!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Akron, a not so bad place to live

I was thinking just that earlier in the week, when driving through a long swatch of Cleveland neighborhoods. I was considering writing about why I am glad to be an Akronite. Thursday's Akron Beacon Journal reports that Akron is no longer on the 65 weakest cities list. "Weak" is an odd word to choose. I suppose the strong cities have fortified walls and moats filled with alligators to keep the suburbanites out.

Speaking of the suburbs, try to avoid Manchester Rd going south toward Coventry. Road construction going on past Waterloo making the usually congested Manchester Rd one long hot creep along single lanes north and south. The intersection at Manchester and Waterloo is now programmed so that traffic in each direction gets an equal amount of green light time. Looks like the road work will be there all summer and maybe more.

I drove down that way to get some gas. The Acme on Manchester has gas pumps and if you swipe your Acme card, you get a cent or two off your gas. With the discount, it was 3.369 per gallon. First time I've hit $40 to fill the tank. Usually one tank lasts two weeks, unless I have to go places beyond Akron. I plan on doing a lot of staying at home over summer break. Not going places, working on a couple of writing projects and taking active breaks in the garden. I've got just a little more planting to do this weekend. The herb and salad garden looks fantastic! I will take some photos over the weekend to share.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Call your congress person today!

The House of Representatives will be voting on a new Iraq war funding bill that deletes all calls for time tables and bench marks. And I believe it still includes a load of tacked on items designed to gain the support of specific house members, especially Democrats.

If you are one of the 70% who want the war to end ASAP, then call your representative and tell the person answering the phone how you want your congressperson to vote on this issue. You can easily find the correct phone number for your representative here.

I just called Betty Sutton's office and gave a message to the person answering the phone. He took my name and address and then listened to my comments and said he'd pass them along. I said I wanted Ms Sutton to vote against the new supplemental bill tomorrow. And furthermore, I will no longer give money to any Democrat who continues the war by voting for funding without a time line for departure.

It felt good to do that. I now get requests for money online and in the US mail from a variety of Democrats and their organizations. I will not contribute any more money to the Democrats unless they take a stand. If this means that Mike Gravel is the only candidate to win my hard-earned donation money, then so be it! Howard Dean -- I like your committee and how you have organized it, but you aren't getting anything more from me if the Democrats cave tomorrow.

So don't be shy! Call, write, email and pledge to withhold your campaign contributions. Do it today!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Akron's sludge will turn into biogas

The Mayor actually did something green for Akron! We are going to get a new facility to turn sewage sludge into biogas. Bob Downing gives all the details in a story in Monday's ABJ.

I found some pro/con information about biogas. Turns out there's precious little in the way of negatives, the main one being that it is not something that can be done on a wide scale. In the situation of the city's needs, however, this new plant could eventually generate enough biogas to cover the energy costs for the city's sewage/composting facilities. Local sustainability is a good thing, and think of all the good things the city could do with the millions saved annually.

Schmack Bio-Energy is the name of the new company building the plant in Akron, a collaboration between a German company that invented the technology and the American company running the current composting outfit at the sewage plant. On their web site, I found this list of possible sources to turn into biogas:

Municipal Waste Water
Institutional & Industrial Organic Waste
Yard Waste
Farm Animal Waste
Agricultural Crops and Residual

Small biogas operations on farms could give farmers a sustainable fuel and a means of recycling farm wastes. So even though biogas cannot fuel an entire city, it can provide the means to make smaller concerns self-sufficient -- and there's everything to like about that.

Let's have more green initiatives, Mr Mayor, please.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Waiting for Gonzalot

Bush accuses the Democrats of political theatre:

"I stand by Al Gonzales, and I would hope that people would be more sober in how they address these important issues," Bush said. "And they ought to get the job done of passing legislation, as opposed to figuring out how to be actors on the political theater stage."

Bush, of course, is not an actor on the political theatre stage. The Decider would be director, but unfortunately, he seems to have a problem with asking his ensemble players to make an exit. Must be the script. None of the endings authored by Dick Cheney have worked out. The theatre is over two thirds empty and the show won't end.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Low Impact Week approaches

Crunchy Chicken has a blog by the same name that is focused on environmental issues. She discusses the practicalities, such as using Diva Cups for menstruation, reducing Q-tip usage or what to use instead of the paper toilet seat protectors in public restrooms. I found her blog via No Impact Man's blog. Inspired by online discussions on how to encourage more people to lower their impact upon the environment, Crunchy is promoting Low Impact Week from June 1st to the 7th.

Here are the 7 points to focus on:

1. Reduce energy consumption
2. Reduce water usage
3. Change your food habits

4. Reduce your dependence on paper products

5. Reduce your garbage output

6. Reduce Single Occupancy Vehicle usage

7. Do something that lasts more than a week

Specific things to do can be found here.

Here is a list of what I have done so far in each of the categories:

1. Reduce energy consumption
* I have replaced all incandescent bulbs in my house with compact fluorescent bulbs
*When I turn off my computer, I also turn off the surge protector that holds a full load of energy sucking devices.
*I wash clothes in cold water.

2. Water usage
* I set up an old plastic trash bin under a waterspout to collect rain water for the garden
* I turn off the water while brushing my teeth

3. Change your food habits
*I have switched to a vegan diet (after 35 years as a vegetarian)
*I try to buy things with less packaging

4. Reduce your dependence on paper products. (I would change this category to include plastic products.)
*I've stopped buying paper towels and use cloth rags instead

5. Reduce your garbage usage
*I recycle all vegetable matter in a compost bin
*I recycle everything that I am allowed to put in my city-issued blue recycle bin

6. Reduce single occupancy vehicle use
This one is pretty difficult to do when you are a single-home dweller. I do live less than a mile from my place of work, so that should count for something!

7. Do something that lasts longer than a week.
Everything I've listed so far has lasted more than a week and has not been a major hassle to accomplish. I've been looking at horror at all the personal care products in my bathroom that are sold in non recyclable containers. This is an area that I need to investigate and make some changes. Anybody have an idea what to use instead of a stick deodorant in a non-refillable non-recyclable plastic container?

I encourage all readers to spread the word about Low Impact Week and make a list of things that you can do to lower your impact upon the environment.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday Night Jam

It was the perfect garden planting day. Overcast, with very light rain off and on. I love to plant things and then a rain comes and does some deep watering before the mulch goes down.

Time to kick back with some pre-AI footage of Blake Lewis. There's a lot to like about this guy musically and as a performer. He had never seen American Idol before he auditioned. He chooses the music he likes whenever possible. When confronted by the often bizarre theme weeks, he has taken great liberties with the material -- and has been highly entertaining while doing so. Watching him almost makes up for no Rock Star on NBC this summer.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What does it take to get rid of Gonzales?

This is a guy who tried to pressure a sick man in the intensive care unit to go along with Bush's illegal eavesdropping program. And you know that the eavesdropping plan must be profoundly wrong if even Ashcroft refused to sign off on it.

Why does Bush keep clinging on to his ethically-challenged Attorney General? Maybe because the call that sent Gonzales scurrying to the hospital was from the White House. Jason Leopold and Matt Renner at Truthout report the details from testimony by former Acting Attorney General James Comey:
Comey described in extraordinary detail how the March 9, 2004 meeting at the hospital unfolded.

"I was headed home at about 8 o'clock that evening; my security detail was driving me," Comey said.

"And I remember exactly where I was - on Constitution Avenue - and got a call from Attorney General Ashcroft's chief of staff telling me that he had gotten a call from Mrs. Ashcroft from the hospital ... Mrs. Ashcroft reported that the call had come through, and that as a result of that call, Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to the hospital to see Mr. Ashcroft."

Comey said that he rushed to the hospital to arrive before the White House officials.

Comey testified that he believed President Bush had phoned Ashcroft's hospital room directly, and he was sure that the call "came from the White House." Mrs. Ashcroft was not allowing any calls to be taken by her ill husband. She then called Ashcroft's chief of staff to inform him that the White House was sending Gonzales and Card to the hospital to meet with the debilitated attorney general face to face.

At Ashcroft's bedside, Gonzales did most of the talking, Comey said, adding that Gonzales and Card pressed the attorney general to reauthorize the program in spite of reservations about its legality. Comey said Ashcroft reiterated his concerns and refused to sign the order reauthorizing the program.

I don't know about you, but this story gives me the creeps! It's ghoulishly thuggish, and probably typical tactics for this lot. It used to be, if you turned over a rock and exposed the creepy crawlies, they'd shrivel up and die. Under the Bush regime, the lies and illegalities have multiplied while soldiers and citizens are the ones to die. Gonzales deserves to be tossed for what he has done. The Democrats heading up committee investigations need to keep digging and exposing the truth until there's nothing left to be done but impeach Bush.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

No Impact Man has turned off the electricity

If you haven't been following the adventures of Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, you are missing out on some very fine writing. Here are the first two paragraphs of a post lamenting that nothing is special any more because every need and every whim can be gratified instantly:

"In my imagination, people used to live like this: you had most of the bare necessities but then every so often a relative managed to get hold of, say, some coffee or some salt and pepper or a guava fruit. That day that it came would be special. These things were called “luxuries” or “delicacies.” If guests came over you’d say, “Hey, you know, cousin John sent us some coffee beans. Shall we have some for a treat?”

Or you’d dazzle your guests by putting salt and pepper on the table. Didn’t salt and pepper used to be a special thing? Today, is anything special? Is there anything so inaccessible that you get a buzz when you acquire it?"

You can read the rest of this post by clicking here.

Colin and his family are attempting to lead a No Impact life in the middle of NYC. They don' do it by buying carbon offsets. They are doing it by eliminating consumption/use of items that take a negative toll on the environment. They have been going in steps, from not buying any item that creates trash, to buying locally, to not taking elevators or public transportation and now to turning off the electricity.

When the sun goes down, they use candles. To maintain his blog, Kevin powers his laptop with a rooftop solar panel system. One thing he didn't figure on, was that his gas range depends upon electricity to turn it on. So when he bakes his bread (made from locally grown and milled flour). he has to turn one circuit breaker on to fire up the oven.

Colin shares an intriguing recipe for whole wheat sour dough bread that I plan on trying out. There was a time in my life when I was really into the bread baking ritual and I'm thinking I might be a good habit to renew. The next step of course will be finding locally grown and milled flour. Anybody have any tips?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In the new millenium, atheism speaks out

Pharyngula, my favorite science blog, has the most amazing five minutes of live television I've ever seen. Christopher Hitchens getting down on Jerry Falwell. Anderson Cooper gives him uninterrupted time and Hitchens delivers. Be sure to check out the comments at the Pharyngula post as well -- there is a debate going on as to whether Fallwell and the other "Chaucerian frauds" actually believed what he preached.

Hitchens is an interesting character. His book on the sins of Mother Theresa is a must-read. He veered left then veered right and is now trying to turn things around with a new book called God is Not Great. I haven't picked it up yet, as I'm not finished with Dawkins' The God Delusion. Wow, I can't believe I've actually reached an era where I can't keep up with all the best selling books on atheism! Sam Harris is so much easier on the ears and eyes than Maddy O'Hair, that's for sure.

Connie Schultz at Akron Press Club

What a great delight to hear Connie speak, not as the candidate's wife, but as her own woman -- reporter, author and spokesperson for the working people of Ohio. Her writing voice will be heard by more and more people, as she has been picked up for syndication, her columns soon to appear in over 400 newspapers!

There aren't enough voices like Connie's -- voices that aren't afraid to say "I'm a feminist," for example. She does not hesitate to express astonishment that most of the reporters she met while campaigning for her husband Sherrod Brown, were white middle-aged men and that she met only two minority reporters in the state of Ohio. When did it become uncool to be aware of and concerned about gender bias? Connie Schultz is the perfect anecdote to the mean-spirited and unkind proponents of feminist equals Nazi.

I am eagerly awaiting the publication of her new book, And His Lovely Wife: A Memoir From the Woman Beside the Man. In her talk today, she gave us glimpses into her experiences. From her hesitancy in agreeing to Sherrod's run for senate in the beginning to her whole-hearted efforts once it had begun that took her to every region of this state. She spoke of her dismay that every major paper except one endorsed DeWine. Sherrod, however, was not fazed by such things. "Well of course, the Plain Dealer isn't endorsing me," he'd shrug these things off and in retrospect, he was quite right to do so. Sherrod won by a 13% margin, and he did it by speaking to the people, on the issues. It just underscored how far removed management is from the rest of us cogs in the wheels.

And that is another reason I admire Connie Schultz -- she grew up in a working class family and speaks to both the virtues and the indignities of working class people. Her stories about her mother and father bring tears to the eyes, as she speaks of how hard they worked at deadening jobs so that she and her siblings could have better lives. She is a marvelous story teller, in print and in speech, delivered without notes but with complete confidence, humor, empathy and deep insight.

Today's talk at the Akron Press Club was recorded and will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable, on Channel 23 in Akron, Canton, Mansfield, and Youngstown and Channel position 15 in Cleveland on the following days and times:

Saturday, May 19th -- 7 PM
Sunday, May 20th - 4 PM
Thursday, May 24th - 7 PM

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An invitation to meet a mayoral candidate

Do I want to go meet Joe Finley, and hear about his vision for Akron? Someone from the Save the Highland Theatre campaign thinks he has the answers to solving Akron's problems. From the email received today:
Akron is a nice place to live, but it can, and should be a great place to live. When I discovered the potential loss of the Highland Theater I began looking into ways to not only save the historic land mark, a profitable business model was equally as important. To writing the business plan I began to research any data about Akron I could get my hands on.

The research I found cast light on how the City of Akron spends our tax dollars, frankly I was shocked by how much is spent on parking decks in relation to the money spent on the community. I discovered most of the federal HUD Community Development Block Grants have been spent on street and side walk improvements, land acquisition and demolition and administration. Only 5% is spent on programs like senior and youth services and a mere .73% on fair housing activities. Our streets are important, but only a fraction of the grants went to housing and social services. The city's economic development policies are not working and people are leaving Akron in droves, our population is just over 200,000.

So, when I heard Joe Finley would be running for mayor I wanted to know if he would be able to turn Akron around. After meeting with him and learning how he has viable alternatives to the fiscally irresponsible practices of the current administration, I am excited for our future. We have a new governor, who is making positive change for Ohio, and Joe is ready to lead Akron in a new direction.
Well, it is interesting to see that some grass roots campaigning is going on and that the long-time incumbent may have to run harder than in the past. The current mayor's tax plan was all money-grab with very little specificity. I'm looking for a local government that takes action to make my hometown greener and a more pleasant place to live for all.

I took a look at Finley's web and see that his support of Right to Life issues is considered a qualification -- yikes! It was a terrible day when political candidates began to make this part of their individual philosophies public information. Because that means that they feel obligated to turn their religious views into public law -- and that is why Joe Finley is going to have a real hard time winning my vote.

Finally, I'd be very interested in any comments about the content of the above email regarding the claims about how the city spends its HUD grants. If true, that is something that needs to be addressed.

Local Pop Culture -- The Difficult to play the Lime Spider

Some interesting items from the email:

Dear Large Mailing List:

As you know, The Difficult doesn’t get out much, but when we do, we rock with quiet dignity. The band will be making its first public appearance since last summer, and there’s no saying when we’ll get around to it again. Per our grammatical demand, all the bands on the bill have names that begin with a definite article followed by an adjective:

Thursday, May 24
The Lime Spider, downtown Akron
With The High Strung (ingenious Detroit pop) and The Same Things (young Akron heartthrobs)

We’re playing first, 9:30-ish, so don’t sweat the weeknight factor.

In other news, I’ve just received word that the Devo book is finally, allegedly, being released in paperback next month. Inexplicably, the publisher has changed the title, but the book is the same, only much cheaper than the hardback:

-- David Giffels

Monday, May 14, 2007

Green Car Washes locally?

That's the message I heard tonight on Akron-Canton News with Eric Mansfield. You know how they tease? "Green Car Wash?" Find out after these messages.

Turns out the green car wash involves only one gallon of water, versus the usual 50 gallons per vehicle, as well as non-chemical cleaning solutions made from citrus and washable, recyclable cleaning cloths. Only one problem -- the green car wash was invented by a Frenchman and that's where you would have to go to get one.

And here I thought somebody -- finally -- was getting creative here in Akron and establishing a new business based upon sound ecological principles. Until one actually opens in our area, all you can do is try to emulate the French with your own one gallon bucket and maybe some environmentally friendly Simple Green liquid car wash applied with your own elbow grease. Don't forget to use your own washable recycled fabric rags instead of paper products.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Summit County Progressive Democrats

Last summer, upon volunteering for Sherrod Brown's campaign, I began hearing about a group called the Summit County Progressive Democrats. Nobody came up to me and gave me a spiel and loaded me up with pamphlets worthy of the Jehovah's Witnesses, so I took that as an initial sign that this group might be of interest. Groups that indulge in massive self-aggrandizement turn me off every time.

I picked up another clue as to what this group is all about at a campaign event where I was assigned to blowing up balloons with another worker, an older lady who introduced herself and then immediately asked me if I was "one of those Summit County progressives." I told her I wasn't, and she said with a firm nod and smile, "Good!" "Aha!" I thought to myself, Summit County Progressives are not beloved by the mainstream." I took this to be a positive sign and thought I should check further into the group.

By the time the fall election was over, I knew a little bit more about SCPD, including the fact that they meet every 2nd Tuesday of the month at the Main Library downtown. I made note of that and determined to attend a meeting. But the school year, with all its demands of time and energy, made it impossible to get there until this month.

I didn't really know what to expect, perhaps a handful of folks left-over from the fall's election looking far far ahead to '08. Instead I found a room full of warm and vibrant people, well-organized with an interesting agenda of timed segments addressing several issues. One member presented a summary of his paper on what is the difference between a "liberal" and a "progressive" which is something I hadn't really considered too closely before, other than "progressive" sounds cooler and has an air of sleeves rolled up and action being taken. For those who are interested in the historical background of progressives, check the issues page of the SCPD web site. There are other interesting papers there as well. I like the idea of an organisation that encourages its members to write issue papers.

A woman from the Friends of the Crooked River gave a Power Point presentation on their progress fighting the proposed hydro-electric plant on the river in the Falls. I was glad to see an environmental issue put forth on the SCPD agenda, and indeed the environment is included in their mission statement:
Mission Statement

The mission of the Summit County Progressive Democrats (SCPD) is to create a more just society by advocating issues and candidates who advance progressive ideals, where people can work together to articulate domestic and foreign policies that support human rights, equal economic opportunity, social justice and environmental stewardship. We work to expand grassroots participation in the political process and to return the government of this nation to the will of the people.

I'm considering joining the group, even though I know I can't contribute as much time as other people. At least I have the summer months, which proved useful in last year's election. I can parade and I can pass out stickers and campaign materials.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blake Lewis - Time of the Season

No crystal ball here, so I can't say whether Blake makes it into the final two. But this was the performance that grabbed me, so we'll post it here with best wishes for post-AI successes:

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gravel to present A Legislative Plan to End the War in Iraq

Wow! I'd really like to attend this event! Hope it shows up on C-Span and YouTube.

A Legislative Plan To End The War In Iraq

WHO: Former United States Senator and
Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Gravel.

WHAT: The Senator offers a plan to create a constitutional confrontation between
the US congress and the President, adjudicated by the American people.

WHEN: Monday May 14, 2007 at 9:30 AM EST.

WHERE: National Press Club
Edward R. Murrow Room
529 14th Street NW
Washington DC 20045

Mike Gravel Needs Your Support

I sent fifty bucks to Mike Gravel's campaign. I want him around and in every debate from now until the primaries are concluded. He speaks truth to power and his National Initiative for Democracy comes pretty close to anarcho-communitarianism. He could use some more money. Please consider supporting him.

Dear Village Green

Permit me to express my heartfelt thanks for your contribution at this critical juncture in my presidential campaign. At this point, we can only field a modest campaign effort and every donation is extremely important. We are making a special effort to get federal matching funds. It will take $5000 from 20 states with no contribution above $250 for qualifying purposes.

As you know, the centerpiece of my candidacy is the National Initiative for Democracy, a legislative proposal to bring American voters into the operations of government as lawmakers--sharing this central power of government in a partnership with elected lawmakers.

The National Initiative will permit American voters to make legislative decisions on policies that affect their lives--issues the Congress seems incapable of resolving. The National Initiative is the only way we can change the "politics as usual" culture in Washington.

Please go to to read about the National Initiative and vote. It will take the same number of votes to enact the National Initiative as it does to elect a president.

Please ask your friends and family to vote for the National Initiative and to support our campaign financially regardless of the amount.


Senator Mike Gravel

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Farmer's Market to return to Lock 3

Akron will retain its downtown farmer's market co-sponsoring with the Akron Beacon Journal. It will be on Saturdays from 9 AM to noon or 1 PM, is what I'm hearing. I don't have all the details such as whether any of the vendors from the last two summers will be participating.

It was reported in February that many of the vendors would be moving into a farmer's market to be held at Stan Hywet, over where the rich folks live, the ones who can afford organic cheeses and heirloom tomatoes. And indeed, The Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservatory will be operating the Stan Hywet market:

Thursdays 3:30-7:00 p.m. Dates: July 12th — September 27th

They will also operate a farmer's market in Peninsula on Saturdays, so it looks like those valley farmer's goods might not show up at Lock 3. It will be interesting to see who is there and how many will be vending organic foods
. I will be shopping there and will let you know what's for sale!

It also looks like the farmer's markets for downtown workers will continue at Cascade Plaza this summer as well. on Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 AM to noon, starting July 6th. The more we can buy locally, the less fuel we are responsible for burning, so be sure to visit your nearest farmers' market this summer. Take the time to chat with the farmers. Find out how much or little they use petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. Awareness begins with
one-to-one contact and dialogue.

And don't forget to take your cloth bags to the market!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Landfill gets its license despite fire and odor

From Wednesday's ABJ, this report on the status of Countywide Landfill, home to lots of Summit County's trash:

The Stark County Health Department voted today to approve a 2007 license for a Stark County landfill where an underground fire has been smoldering.

With little discussion, the board of health commissioners voted to approve the permit for the Countywide Recycling & Disposal Facility in Pike Township, following a lengthy recommendation from Health Commissioner William Franks.

"Little discussion" indeed. What is there to discuss when the bags of trash keep piling up and there's no where else to dump it? I've been following this story all along, from initial reports of evidence of intense underground heat through EPA investigations and it seemed clear to me that the license would be renewed. What wasn't clear was what steps would be taken to fix the mess and how the for-profit landfill company would prevent future fires and odors.

According to this brief report Health Commissioner Franks says "Many of Countywide's problems will be corrected under an agreement with the state." Which leaves me wondering what are the other problems and why weren't they included in the agreement. The agreement the company signed with the Ohio EPA states that it must douse the fire and get rid of the odor. Let's see how quickly they can figure out how to do those things. They have until May 25th to submit a plan. They have to check the integrity of the plastic liner that holds all that toxic waste (including the stuff that is on fire) to make sure it isn't leaking. and yes, there is a fine of a million or so bucks.

Even so, the Health Commissioner says the landfill "is not a threat to public health or the environment and the company is substantially in compliance with regulations at its five other Ohio facilities."

Great. Is someone checking out those other five facilities?

By the way, "Republic Waste Services of Ohio owns and operates the 258-acre landfill. Its parent company is Florida-based Republic Services Inc." It's a great big toxic corporate world we live in. Isn't it comforting to know that landfill fires are so common that there are web sites like this one to deal with the problems?

Club 3000 is a citizens' organization that is trying to keep tabs on Countywide and other Ohio landfills. Check out their web page for the nitty gritty. The image above is from their web site and is a view of Countrywide as seen from Bolivar, Ohio.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Akron votes No on tax increase

By a two to one margin. Our mayor says he has never seen the voters so angry.

Uh yeah. I'm so angry, I started voting again after decades of denying politicians the right to represent my best interests. And those were happy times, I tell you! My stress levels and blood pressure were much lower in those days of non-participation in the political process.
"Voting only encourages them," I used to tell my politically-inclined pals.

Look what it did to George Bush. He took his stolen election as a mandate to fill every corridor and cubicle of government with stooges and lackeys ready to give the military-industrial-corporate complex everything its stockholders want.

I'll be honest and admit that one of the reasons I stopped voting was that anyone I ever cared about as a politician not only lost, they were crushed. I signed up to vote again in 2004 and voted for Kucinich in the primary. Was not thrilled with Kerry, but thought maybe he could pull it off and stop the right-wing war-mongers from killing more people. What do you do when you vote your conscience but the bad guys keep winning?

I decided to try again in 2006. Much to my amazement, Sherrod Brown, the candidate I chose to actively support, won his race for Senator from Ohio. I called his office today and asked the gentleman who answered the phone to tell Sherrod to keep working to end the war in Iraq. I know he can't do it single-handedly, but I wanted him to know that taking that stand continues to be the most important thing he can do right now. Don't give into peer pressure from Democrats who don't want to continue the pressure. So the president has the veto power -- make him keep using it so that he is constantly on display as a stubborn fool who will not admit he cannot "win" in Iraq.

So yes, Mayor. I am an angry voter. The money the federal government takes from me is being used in ways that are completely against everything I stand for. All those billions wasted on war could correct a lot of sewer overflow problems in this city and beyond.

Monday, May 07, 2007

No on Issue 17

Dear Local Politicians,

I've thought about it and tomorrow is the vote. Nope, sorry, not forking over for nebulous promises. There are a couple of things on your list that I'd be willing to support, like programming at the new Community Centers and fixing/rebuilding the sewer overflow system. But most of the tax request is for vague promises to attract new businesses.

Tell me you need money for turning Akron into a greener and healthier place to live and I'll listen to specific plans. But as long as First Energy remains the only energy game in town, I have my doubts that anything positive will be done so that I don't have to live through summer ozone alert days.

I'm fed up with filthy coal and aging nuclear plants as the sources of energy in our city. How about luring in some businesses that will build and install solar panels on our rooftops? What about making use of all the wind energy available here at the "Summit?"

As I drive past various new housing developments in the city and surrounding burbs, I wonder to myself how many of these plastic homes have been built with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind? Would No Impact Man deign to live in such dwellings?

I'd vote instantly for a tax that promised us a real recycling program that deals with all the plastics, not just numbers one and two and that sets a meaningful limit as to what goes into landfills.

Mr Mayor and Council people -- come back to the voters with pragmatic programs and I'll give you a listen. But tomorrow, it's going to be No.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Entering the New World Performance Laboratory

Oddly enough, I've found that it is easier to keep up with the blogging when I'm in production with a show and not so easy when I'm not in production. Although putting on a show can be all-consuming, it is also a time of heightened self-discipline and days that are organized into effective routines. But after the show is over, suddenly I'm faced with all those mundane tasks I've been putting off until "after the show is up." I find myself with long lists of Things To Do, like changing the oil in the vehicle, mowing, laundry, various errands, working in the house and digging in the garden.

I did manage to get over to the University of Akron on Thursday night to catch up with the New World Performance Lab. Six company members gave us a rare glimpse into the process that fuels their work. We were treated to a condensed version of some of their warm-up work, as well as a preview into their latest work inspired by Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein. According to director, Jim Slowiak, the new piece also explores the real life relationships of Mary Shelley with her husband Percy and their comrade in art Lord Byron.

After the performance, the audience was invited to a talk back session with the company, a multicultural group, whose members rehearse four hours a night, five days a week. This is not an easy commitment for any of them, but it was clear that work within the company provides something not easily obtained elsewhere. For one thing, co-directors Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta are teacher-directors with direct lineage to Jerzy Grotowski, having served as the great Polish theatre innovator's assistants during his years in Irvine, CA and later when he moved his center to Italy. Both are co-authors of a new book which gives vital details into Grotowski's life and principles that were tested in his Polish Laboratory Theatre.

Thursday night, we entered another laboratory, in which the work of Grotowski is not reproduced, but rather added into a mix of possibilities, from both original and external sources. We began to understand the difficulty of the work of the actor as we were given a rare glimpse into the group's creative process.

The warm-up began with individual stretches that morphed into contact improvisations with each other and ended with a challenging game of catch two sticks while running through the space and counting randomly to 20. If anyone drops the stick or if two or more people call out a number at the same time, the count must return to 1 and continue until 2o is reached cleanly. This is very hard to do, but the point is the doing rather than the winning. Many different skills are being honed during this practice, building up of stamina and attentiveness to the self and the others for example.

Once the actors were primed, they re-entered with costume pieces and props. They had each developed "actions" based on their response to Frankenstein. One audience member described what we saw as similar to "watching art." I understand what she meant, although this art is definitely kinetic, rather than static. There are rich visual images that flow, transform, appear or disappear, odd connections and contrasts revealing themselves in each moment. The company claim that they are not playing "characters" but rather discovering themselves in the work. From Frankenstein, they are playing with the myth of the monster, with horror and fear, and with the idea of creation.

I have said this before, and I'll say it again -- it is amazing that such an important group of theatre artists should be living in my home town. I actually left Ohio back in the 70s because after four years of college and a theatre degree, I was convinced I knew nothing about acting. I was right! On my journey, I eventually discovered and learned from people who had worked with people who had worked with Grotowski. My joy was great when I found this group making their home in Akron. We are very fortunate to have NWPL here and so few local folks know about what they do, while around the world those who are interested in expanding their knowledge of physical acting come here to pursue research with them or send for Jairo and Jim to teach workshops in their own countries.

You can join their mailing list at the NWPL web page given above. Frankenstein should be ready for public viewing in the fall.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Gravel on Colbert

Alternet had this video, and I'm happy they did, as I missed it. Maybe you did too:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Caught in the Meme Pool

Someone sent me this in an email, so I'm cheating and using it as a blog post instead of sending it to friends as an email. So dear friends, feel free to post your responses via the Comments section.


A) Four jobs I have had in my life
1. Money counter in a bank vault
2. FCC log checker
3. Courier
4. Director of a senior citizens theatre company

B) Four movies I would watch over and over
1. The Adventures of Picasso
2. Modern Times
3. Richard III
4. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

C) Four places I have lived:
1. Granger, OH
2. Washington, D.C. (Adams -Morgan area)
3. Berkeley , CA
4. San Francisco (in the Tenderloin)

D) Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Lincoln, NE
2. Wellingborough, UK
3. Reno , NV
4. Troy, NY

E) Websites I visit daily:
1. Earthlink Start Page
2. Huffington Post
4. No Impact Man

F) Four of my favorite foods:
1. broccoli
2. beans
3. tofu
4. strawberries

G) Four places I would rather be right now: (Order means nothing!!)
1. the Galapagos Islands
2. San Francisco
3. gardening
4. raising a glass at the Clissold Arms

H) Four friends I think will respond:
2. ?
3. ?
4. ?