Saturday, June 30, 2007

Review: Sicko by Michael Moore

I have very good health insurance. I'd gladly give it up for universal free coverage for all US citizens. I didn't need to see Michael Moore's new movie to come to that conclusion. However, Sicko certainly underscores my convictions. Now if it can only reach many more people and urge them on to action.

At the AMC West Market Cinema, I was disappointed that our viewing room was not jam packed with people. Friday night, prime movie time, and why wouldn't folks want to sit down to a rousing documentary? The audience that filled perhaps half of the theatre was certainly a knowledgeable one. Early in the film, we see a clip of a doctor testifying in front of congress. She admits on the record that in her job for an insurance company, she denied an operation to a man who needed it and consequently died because he didn't have it. The doctor was given a career boost for her efforts at saving the company money. Reactions shots in that scene included a glimpse of the young and very horrified Congressman Sherrod Brown. Instantly, a murmur swept across the theatre -- whispers of "Sherrrod" indicated an audience full of Democrats, and probably progressive ones at that!

How can we get people who are not aware into the theatre to see that movie? I fantasized citizen liberators taking over movieplexes nationwide and inserting Sicko into every theatre, so that the Dieharder 3 audience would have to watch Sicko before seeing Bruce Willis in action. And with the current crop of movies on screen now, I doubt many audiences would complain!

Sicko is a well-crafted documentary featuring personal health care stories -- a few familiar ones such as the LA hospitals dumping of indigent patients onto the sidewalks of Skid row, as well as plenty of sad new tales of insurance billing horror. We even get to see the very beginning of the medical insurance scam, created with the full cooperation and support of the Nixon White House. That little clip ought to be on every news show, so that people can start to realize that what one president created, another may dismantle.

Moore does an excellent job of opening our unobservant eyes. We go through life accepting that it is OK for some people not to have medical coverage, that bankruptcy from catastrophic medical bills is just "shit happening," and that the procedure your doctor wants you to have is one your insurance company says you can't have because it is "experimental" or your employer did not include it in your coverage. Medical care has become a game of chance in this country and we the people are seemingly OK with that.

Concerned about the politicians who have the power to fix things? You better believe they are in the deep with all the big medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Don't believe me? Go here to look at the current crop of presidential candidates. Ooops -- Hillary is at the top of the list, followed closely by Barack Obama and John Edwards on the Dem side. As for the Republicans, Romney is breathing down Hillary's neck, with McCain and Giuliani close behind.

You can bet for sure that all the leading candidates will say that they plan to reform health care, but every single plan will continue to support for-profit medical corporations in one way or another. Except for Kucinich and Gravel, of course, who continue to make perfect sense and are ignored by the mainstream.

Sicko contains amazing footage from countries that provide free medical care to all citizens, France, with the number one system in the world, even has teams of doctors on call 24 hours a day who make house calls. We get a glimpse of a country where quality of life is connected to time away from the job, whether it be to have a baby, recover from illness, or to enjoy all those hours away from the 35 hour a week job obligation. Yes, that's right -- in France workers only work 35 hours per week. If they work over time, they are compensated with more time off. And lets' not even think about those lovely five weeks of vacation every year!

Why do we let people make money off of other people's medical conditions? Why do we think it is OK to take away people's homes and savings in order to give them a life-saving procedure? Michael Moore says it is because we are kept in fear and in debt. The middle class college graduate looks for a job, already saddled with student loan debt that will take years to pay off. That graduate is not likely to rock any boats, but will take what is on offer even if it is not good enough. We are kept isolated by our debts, all our focus in on self rather than community. How convenient for the powers that be.

Go see Sicko and take someone with you, preferably someone who can be awakened to the madness and true sickness of our medical system.

Friday, June 29, 2007

E4S at the Akron Zoo

Over 99% of what is being built right now in Akron will end up as toxic waste in a landfill -- probably sooner than later. That includes all the brand new spanking school/community centers we are spending heaps of money upon. I learned this from a green builder who works in the Akron area. I met him at an Entrepreneurs for Sustainability event in the brand new geothermal Komodo Dragon Hall at the Akron Zoo this past Wednesday evening.

I am not an entrepreneur and never will be, but I certainly have a passion for learning about how to make Akron a greener, healthier and happier place to live. I knew nothing about this group other than a short blurb announcing the event that appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Every Third Thursday of the month, E4S sponsors an event that promotes networking and problem solving in developing businesses that will enhance our lives and the planet at the same time. This one was called Growing the Healthy, High Performance Building Industry in Greater Akron. I was very impressed with the organization of this event. It was a horizontal approach, with a concerted effort to not indulge in talking "down" to the participants. A very brief introduction set the parameters. There were three discussion areas set up in the room, each with a question posed and written on a large pad. Anybody could start at any of the groups. A facilitator-scribe in each discussion circle jotted down the ideas and comments on the pads of paper. It was inspiring to see so many women participating, in leadership roles and as entrepreneurs. At the end of an hour, highlights from each ongoing conversation were shared with the participants.

Cleveland was the seeding place for this organization and that city is much further along in actual green building projects and green business start-ups. A good many of the participants were down from Cleveland. A major player in Cleveland appears to be the Greater Cleveland Green Building Coalition. A woman from this organization encouraged us to call with any questions about green building -- they are a non profit that acts as a central clearing house on green building information and growing. They even have a blog with some very useful tips on how to find green products and services.

Both Jacobs Field and the Great Lakes Science Center are currently featuring new solar photovoltaic installations. These are to serve as highly visible beacons of renewable energy sources to lead us toward a greener way of living.

Akron is woefully behind in forward thinking. We allow buildings and housing to be thrown up without regard for sustainability and all other environmental costs. The bottom line is the low bid, which continues to be what traps us in the 1950s mindset. In that post war boom era, cheap housing tracts began to eat up the local surrounding countryside. Now new waves of mini mansions obliterate what few acres of family farms remain.

To find such a bustling crowd gathered in a beautiful new green facility was very encouraging. I met architects, builders and contractors, landscapers and a woman who has started a green cleaning company that will teach businesses how to use green cleaning products and techniques in their buildings to improve the health and safety of workers and customers.

The meeting room buzzed with discussions. Discussions about building awareness, educating the public and collecting data and analysis to show that green building is essential investment for society's future. Locally, some people felt that grass roots efforts to influence the local politicians would not be effective. The feeling was that the big energy companies and corporations must be influenced before the politicians will fall in line. Makes sense, for as long as candidates have to raise piles of money to be elected, it is the big corps that will set the agenda.

However, we can start to demand healthy buildings to live and work in. Costs will go down as green building becomes the norm rather than the oddity. Citizens are starting to learn the value in knowing where and how products are made and may start to think twice before buying the cheap made in China products. Meanwhile the E4S project is here to generate green growth by Connecting, Learning and Doing. They have over 4000 members in NE Ohio, quite amazing growth in only 7 years. I will definitely be attending more of their events. Coming up in Cleveland is the Solar 2007 Annual Conference. Sunday, July 8th is the public day of this conference and yours truly plans to attend and report back here.

Meeting/Dining Room in Komodo Kingdom

We were also given the opportunity to take a tour of the new Komodo Kingdom with the architect and a zoo official. This beautiful building cost only 3% more than "normal" to build it certifiably green. Every aspect of it was designed and selected based upon making the lowest impact upon the environment. For example, each waterless urinal in the men's rooms saves 20, 000 gallons of water per year! All the furnishings were made out of recycled materials. The facility houses the giant reptiles, a cafeteria, a hands on exhibit hall area, educational classrooms and special animal exhibition areas.

We were taken down to the lower depths to see the heat pump system that draws heat from collectors situated underneath the parking lot. Each room in the building has its own pump with a specific setting depending upon its needs. The giant reptiles housed in the building have special temperature needs as cold-blooded species and this system works perfectly to keep them comfortable all year round.

Finally, here's one of the two giant Galapagos tortoises who dwell in the new hall. They go outside during the day and inside at night. I love their faces. I felt an urge to strike up a conversation with them. Later, I observed their keepers luring them inside with succulent cactus and honeyed words!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Review: And His Lovely Wife by Connie Schultz

And His Lovely Wife by Connie Schultz is a book to gallop through and enjoy every moment, knowing that you are sure to pass the book along to your mom or your best friend -- all the while encouraging everybody you know to pick it up and read it.

I say "gallop" because the pace of the book follows the 2006 race for senate in our state of Ohio. And what an amazing race it was! I thought Sherrod Brown had no chance -- a progressive up against incumbent Mike DeWine in the Bush-voting state of Ohio? Nevertheless, I chose this race to not only follow but also join in the fun of parades, events, calling (ever so briefly) and canvassing. I didn't have a whole lot of time to give, but was happy to join in the cause -- against the dark forces of greed and corruption infesting government at most every level.

Connie Schultz gives us tales from inside the campaign trail through clear eyes that take pride in her husband's successes but refuse to relinquish their own point of view. She finds herself in a role she never expected to play -- that of "the lovely wife" at the side of the "honorable congressman" campaigning to become "distinguished senator from the state of Ohio."

She puts to rest the overblown issues concerning Paul Hackett and the Democratic primary. It was her hesitation regarding Sherrod's run for senate that caused a delay in his declaring. To this day, there are devoted internet Hackett fans who pile on Sherrod for jumping into the race. I say thank dog he did, because frankly Hackett needs some seasoning and resume building before I vote him into a high office.

This is a highly personal memoir that takes us into the mind of a writer, and an avowed feminist, who must grapple with what she can or cannot write about in her column once her husband has declared his candidacy. Suddenly, there is a huge shift in perception and relationship with her editors and co-workers. She must come to terms with stepping away from her professional career in order to further Sherrod Brown's.

Connie Schultz had just gone through some of the most amazing years of her life in which she won the Pulitzer Prize and then fell in love with and married Sherrod Brown. Both had been divorced and living as single parents for many years. Both had established themselves in careers that were fueled by their passions for justice and social compassion. This would appear to be a major merge for both players! One in which two very strong minds and voices for working people join forces for love and for the common good of all! If this were pitched as a movie, would anyone think it possible?

Along the campaign trail, Connie hears stories from Ohio citizens about the poverty in their lives, the lack of good paying jobs and decent health care and reflects upon her decision to take a leave of absence from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
I realized I was starting to feel more certain about my decision to take a leave from writing my column to work in the campaign, in part because I was still doing what I did best: listening to other people's stories, and then sharing them with the world at large. Instead of writing about them, I was giving speeches, but the goal was the same. I wanted to reach that place in people that makes them shake their head and say, "This has got to change."
Among the day to day decisions, we learn about hair cuts and wardrobe demands as well as how to select a highly intelligent and first rate campaign staff. This is a lesson in how to do it right -- and just what that means to the individual players at the heart of the it. Connie says that from the beginning
Sherrod would run as an unapologetic progressive. No tiptoeing to the middle of the road, no caving to consultants who wanted to remake him into what Sherrod called "Republican Lite." His message, not polls, would drive his campaign, Sherrod was going to take to the voters his fight for the working men and women of Ohio.
As the campaign heats up, we feel the pace quicken, the days lengthen to impossibly long hours spent driving in cars, speaking to group after group, and the constant dialing for dollars. Sherrod Brown averaged 201 fundraising calls per week from March 1st through November 5th, during which time his campaign gook in over $7 million dollars. Connie doesn't share just who Sherrod was calling, but you can get an overview here. You can see that it was individual contributions that fueled the campaign. (Note of personal transparency: I donated a small amount of money for this race.) The PAC money was more or less evenly distributed among single-issue, business and labor groups. Even so, what a waste of time and money. And all for those 60 second television spots.

Speaking of those spots, Connie gives us the inside scoop as to just how important it was for the Brown campaign to be pro-active and on top of things. Every time the DeWine attack ads came out, the Brown campaign was ready to return the volley. The more the DeWine campaign fell behind, the more desperate their attacks until eventually the pathetic "bananajuana" accusations were all the gasping Republican effort could muster.

Working on the campaign in Akron, I had no doubt this city would be voting for Sherrod. The question was always -- what about the folks in rural and more conservative counties? By sticking to his progressive viewpoint and championing the the over-taxed and under-served working and middle-class citizens, Sherrod Brown's campaign not only resonated with the voters both urban and rural, it got people excited enough to think our vote might make a difference after all.

After 16 years of Republican dominance and give-aways to wealthy individuals and corporations, the hive that is called Ohio is facing imminent collapse. A stagnant economy, polluted air and toxic landfills littering the once rolling farmlands. Ohio cities struggle to remain relevant to civilization. Schools are mandated to do the impossible with impossibly limited funding. And all around us, the effects of global warming etch themselves onto the landscapes guaranteeing a future less happy and healthy for the generations to follow.

Good luck fixing all that Sherrod! I'm not being cynical, really. It is simply obvious that we need more people like you, those who take the role of "public servant" seriously in order to make real change happen. I only hope that every progressive considering running for office reads Connie's book way ahead of time. It is a primer in staying focused, listening to the voters and responding with clear statements and practical solutions. It is a call to everybody who is working for change to not let the momentum falter as we face 2008. To make progress we need more progressives in office!

Connie Schultz is now back at the Plain Dealer, her stories appear twice a week and are now reaching a much wider audience via Creators Syndicate. She is smart, funny and never at a loss for words! This is Connie's second book, the first (highly recommended) was called Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths. Sherrod Brown has also written two books: ...neither of which I've read. So I did a quick search at ABEbooks.com and found both of them for a reasonable price. More books to add to my summer reading pile!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spoken Word Jam Thursday at the Lime Spider

This flew into my email box today and it sounds like a good evening out at the Lime Spider for a good cause as well:

Attention Poets: Spoken Word Artists!

The Lime Spider
207 S. Main St
Akron, OH
June 28th 8pm-11pm

Suggested Donation: $5

Part of the Until the Violence Stops: Northeast Ohio campaign, the Spoken Word Jam is an opportunity for local poets and spoken word artists to express their
sorrow, outrage and frustration about violence towards
women in our society. It is also a chance to speak words of love, respect and healing to our mothers, sisters and daughters. A local hiphop and spoken word artist, Ace Boogie will be our featured performer, opening the show with a half hour set. Ace has produced six albums through SchoolHouse Productions and Amplified Recordings that set the standard for a hip hop culture that defies trends of gross objectification.

In addition, the local performance painting group Apollonova will do an oil painting during the show that will be raffled off at the end of the night.

A silent auction will feature the work of five extraordinary local artists.
All proceeds will go to local battered women's shelters and rape crisis centers, as well as to the global campaign to end violence against women.

Join Up. Speak Out.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Where you know where your apple came from?

Fact for the day:

Fifteen years ago, China grew fewer apples than the United States. Today, it grows five times as many - nearly half of all apples grown in the world.

This AP report predicts that China is only a few years away from flooding the US with their cheap apples, the way they already have upended the apple juice business:

After Chinese juice concentrate entered the U.S. market, the average price for juice apples fell to $55 a ton in 1998 from $153 a ton in 1995. The industry filed an antidumping case but lost on appeal with the U.S. Commerce Department. Today, more than half of imported concentrate comes from China.

"It was an uproar within the industry," said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association. "What can we do? It just takes the bottom right out of our market when the product is being delivered to New York City for less than we can process and harvest it here in the United States."

So what to do? The current US Farm Bill is up for renewal and US apple-growers are pressing for help. It seems insane that anyone in the US would be eating Chinese apples. They grow perfectly well here and we don't need to be fueling ships to carry them all the way from China where they may or may not have been grown drenched in pesticides or grown in toxic soil.

The last farm bill included a directive that all food be labelled with its place of origin. Sounds like a good start. I would also like to see a label with the exact field and farmer indicated, along with a list of any chemicals used to produce each product, including fertilizers, pesticides and whether the land and water used can be certified free of toxins.

All that inspecting would mean a huge increase in highly trained and competent inspectors -- here and abroad. New jobs for educated citizens doing something of the utmost value for all citizens.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Refllections on another tragic ending

The sad and hardly unexpected ending to the story of Jessie Marie Davis took place in a corner of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I drove down that stretch of Riverview Rd on Friday afternoon, stereo up and singing along on a glorious sunny day, past where her body had been hidden in a shallow grave.

The searches had all been going on in the next county over headed south toward Canton. The media circus arrived in town early in the week and I expect it will stick around until the arraignment on Monday, then depart until the pre-trial action heats up. Local television reporter Eric Mansfield has poured his heart into his blogging this past week. If you haven't been reading it, please go there.

This story at first reminded us locals about the pregnant woman in Rootstown a few years back, who was kidnapped and killed for the child she was carrying. But all too quickly it felt more like the tragic story of Margo Prade.

I've been trying not to dwell on it too much. It's too sad, all too typical and quite frankly touches way too close to personal experiences. Yesterday at around 3:30 pm, I looked at the bulletin board at Ritzman Pharmacy on Copley Rd. There was a black and white photo of Ms Davis on a Missing flier. When I got home, I turned on the TV to see if there was any news from all the searching. The cable news networks were buzzing with the Discovery, the Arrest, the Latest Developments. I watched for awhile and then left it for the back garden.

Out in the garden, all fenced in and private, I have tried to create beauty, harmony and a peaceful place to sit with dog near by, sip coffee and read a book. It is a place far removed in years and distance from a time of chaos and emotional bondage. I was lucky. I got it together enough to ask for help and plot an escape.

How does it happen that so many little boys grow up to be viciously jealous and controlling brutes who end up murdering the former object of supposed affection?

The sad facts from the American Institute on Domestic Violence:

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85-95% of all domestic violence victims are female.

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Over 500,00 women are stalked by an intimate partner each year.

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5.3 million women are abused each year.

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1,232 women are killed each year by an intimate partner.

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Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women.

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Women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know rather than by a stranger.


More statistics here. Women, be smart, get help and leave before you get hurt bad.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We are not the Village Green Apartments!

Some folks stop by here looking for the Village Green Apart- ments. Sorry, we are not that village green. We are a virtual village green inspired by a concept album called: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. Check out the title song here.

But if you are looking for those apartments over in Wallhaven, you'll have to look here instead. Looks like they have some vacancies available today, and pets are allowed! Cool!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Todd is Godd Day

How did two of my favorite rock gods manage to have birthdays back to back? Mind you, I'm not complaining as it is Friday and even more special -- I have FINALLY finished my school obligations. As of noon today, I am on summer break! So time to turn up the volume and break out an alcoholic beverage.

So have a happy one, Todd! Here's a very favorite Todd tune, complete with Todd-created animations and images. It's called "Fascist Christ." Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy Ray Day!

June 21st, the longest day of the year, just happens to be Ray Davies birthday, so let's celebrate!
Here's a clip from A Soap Opera, a marvelous piece of rock and roll theatre about a rock star who trades places with an ordinary man called Norman. The star wants to experience real life which will inspire him to write new songs. This one is called Rush Hour Blues.

A Soap Opera was my very first Kinks show. It was at the Akron Civic Theatre and it was a momentous night indeed. Thanks Ray, Many Happy Returns!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

So long Mr Wizard

Bill Nye the Science Guy has a great tribute to Mr Wizard, the original TV science teacher who recently died. You can read it at the eSceptic's web site. The following certainly resonates with me:
"If you think about it, your favorite and most influential teachers were or are performers. When they get up in front of the class, they’ve got something to say, and they present with style, the way a comedian delivers material. So did low-key Don.

When he started out in the 1950s and 1960s on live television and film, he was the groundbreaker. Later he recreated his show with Mr. Wizard’s World on video in Canada in the 1980s. When science educators started throwing around terms like “discrepant event,” “heuristic determinism,” and “counterintuitive,” Don was just intuitive. He knew how to get it all across. Although he aged, he stuck to his approachable yet challenging style. He remained true to his code. Show, then, tell — the essence of science education."
Checking out Mr Wizard's biography at his web site, we see how passionate he was for not only science, but also theatre, radio and all kinds of acting. For me, theatre and science are intimately connected. My life long dedication to experimental theatre grows out of a fascination with human chemistry, biology and physics. The theatre is my laboratory! Every day I enter it with new ideas to test out, observing what happens when variables are changed.

As a kid, I used to watch Mr Wizard and I join in Bill Nye's salute to the man who first showed us that science training is not only essential, but also highly entertaining.

The photo above is from the Museum of Broadcasting Communications.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In the garden

















It rained today! My garden drank it up and drew the slugs out earlier than usual. You don't want to hear about their untimely fall into the container of salt water.

This Garden Is Illegal posted a picture of her first baby tomato sighting on June 13th. I sighted my first two days ago, but didn't get the camera out until today, when I found more. I can't imagine they'll be ready by July 4th. My vegetable garden doesn't get direct sun all day - but each corner of the garden gets a good chunk of sun time at some point during the sun's journey. There are some tall and thriving trees at varying distances from all sides of the garden. As the weather gets warmer, the shade time helps with water conservation -- along with thick heaps of rotted straw mulch.

Check out the salad and herb bed -- it is lovely and lush. The echinacea is almost ready to join the nasturtium in a riot of blooms. The bed also contains: two varieties of thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, dill, three types of basil, chives and lavender.

Notice the thick straw mulch as described above. I learned about this "no-work" method of gardening in the books by Ruth Stout, sister of Rex Stout, noted mystery writer. (I must pause to note with outrage that Rex has a Wikipedia entry but Ruth has none.) At Homestead.org, I found this long article about her methods, her life and her eccentricities. The article claims she liked to garden in the nude, but thought the garden itself looked ugly bare naked without a thick covering of mulch.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A visit to the John Brown home

John Brown, the great abolitionist, had a house in Akron. It is now a museum and is conveniently located across the street from the Perkins Mansion, another museum dedicated to one of Akron's founding fellows.

I had the opportunity to stop at the John Brown House last Friday. It was a beautiful sunny day in Akron, not too hot and the sky was not overcast -- perfect for trying out my new digital camera.

Here we see the front porch, curiously empty. What would have been on that porch during John Brown's time there? Did abolitionists sit and plot in the cool of the evening? Was there a rocker, perhaps, or some wooden barrels to sit upon? Well, it turns out that the porch was not a part of the house during John Brown's time there. To see what it looked like during his tenure, click here.






















A huge work crew was on hand, sprucing up the grounds, painting the white picket fence, and clearing out the attic of the carriage house. There were quite a few nice antique items spread out on the lawn. I asked one of the workers if there was going to be a yard sale, but she didn't know what was to become of the assorted suitcases, furniture and so on.

Leaning up against the carriage house, I found a carved sign indicating that John Brown had planted one of the maple trees in 1844.











Another carving -- this one out of wood -- featured this very fine bear. He looked like he might have been part of a coat rack at one time.



For information about the Perkins Mansion and the John Brown Home, you can go to this Summit County Historical Society's web page, where you will find tour information, ticket prices and so on.

To the side of the house, Let's Grow Akron has a huge vegetable garden planted. This is a wonderful group that helps create community gardens throughout Akron. They make use of empty lots and abandoned spaces. Many of them are planted and worked by children. The food grown is used by the community.


At the John Brown House garden, the sprinklers were going strong,. Akron has had precious little of the west stuff these past few weeks.

Rain, rain come again soon -- maybe even this afternoon!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Blogging

Every now and then, I take a look at the Village Green's visitor statistics. This week, I was amazed to find a huge spike in hits in the middle of the past week. Sitemeter allows you to check out referring URLs as well as many other fun statistics, so I clicked and learned that a web site dedicated to a certain Republican candidate for president had sent over a hundred visitors here in one day -- in response to this little item.

I'm not going to mention this candidates name because I'm really not interested in attracting a bunch of his supporters. It is interesting that of all the public figures I have mentioned here, this is the first time I've had such a spike. So if anybody is looking to increase traffic to your blog, just put this guy's name in your heading and watch 'em all roll in!

What American accent do you have?

Today is the first day of my summer vacation, so let's get frivolous! Here's a little test that may tell you what region of the country most influences your speaking voice. Let me know if you think this quiz gives accurate results:

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)

Northern

You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Huzzah it's a Friday Rock-out!

Storm Large has a new CD out called Ladylike Side One. Side Two is expected within a year. You can listen to the tracks and order it at CD Baby, where it is now at the top of the best seller list! This release more than makes up for the loss of Rock Star on CBS this summer.

The cover art (at left) for the new release says it all and then some!

Here are Storm and the Balls doing "Anarchy En EspaƱol" at a gig in Portland. For all matters concerning storm, please visit her web page.



Thursday, June 14, 2007

De-cluttering

Haven't been able to sit through the basketball game tonight. Instead of watching a bunch of extremely big and really fit guys run up and down the court, I've been running up and down the stairs attacking the insides of this house with vacuum and feather duster. I am still in the grips of The End of the School Year Zone. Everything has to be packed up and put away so the fabulous custodial teams can clean and deep polish over the summer months.

So we go through the clutter, sifting papers and reflecting on the various memories of the year, all the while getting on with plans for the year to follow. Many things need to come home for the summer months, which makes it imperative to de-clutter at home so there's room to think and do some yoga and dance around the room to favorite music played real loud. And oh yeah, finish that master's thesis.

Need help de-cluttering your life? Have you tried out Flylady yet? I subscribed to her email reminder service for a year or so. Since then, I have always made my bed every morning, but I'm not so good about keeping my sink shining clean. I went over to her headquarters tonight as my mom reminded me of Flylady's powers. Looks like she has expanded her line of Flylady products, but the same format is there all in place with a few new tweaks. Warning -- Flylady attracts many home-schooling moms of the socially conservative and overtly religious type. I didn't have time to dig in tonight to see if the zeitgeist there has moved away from gushing Bush love.

Speaking of Bush, did anybody watch the new Comedy Central cartoon called Lil Bush? I guess the 29% presidential approval rating guarantees that this show is a smash success at least until the man is laughed out of office. Since nobody seems to be willing to impeach him, all that's left is continued public humiliations like this cartoon series. Highly recommend viewing for anyone who voted for the Shrub.

Standing "O" to the citizens of Massachusetts and their elected officials who turned back a bid to put gay marriage on the ballot. Massachusetts is the only state that decided not to be big meanies and not let people who love one another get married.

I got a new digital camera but haven't had a chance to play with it yet. Above is a view of the shade garden, taken with the old camera. In the distance, can be seen the rain barrel patiently waiting for more much-needed rain. Coming soon, new pix of the garden and a photo tour along Kenmore Blvd. We're getting new sidewalks, a new branch library and some much needed sprucing up!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Candidate and the Editor

You may remember that last month, I visited the Summit County Progressive Democrats monthly meeting, which is free and open to the public. This time I paid my dues and signed up to join in the fun. However, the comments to follow do not speak for the organization, only for me.

Two very interesting speakers tonight at the monthly meeting. Joe Finely, running in the Democratic primary for mayor of Akron, needs to brush up on his microphone technique. Aside from that, I'd like to see him speaking in front of other groups to see how much or little his campaign rhetoric changes depending upon the audience.

Tonight he proclaimed himself 90% "progressive," after listening to about 15 minutes of the SCPD's membership discuss some issues. I don't know about anybody else, but I was very curious about that other ten percent of Finely that is not progressive. For an indication of what that ten percent is all about, check out his web site where you'll find this:

"100% Pro-Life - Member of Summit County Right to Life" -- yeah, not so progressive after all.

Finley didn't speak about that issue, naturally. He was all about the current administration's expenditures and he may have some some points on all the deals for development that go on. The Bass Pro Shop venture in the former Goodyear property sounds plenty risky. (I didn't think there was enough wild game and fish left around these parts to make such a store a worthwhile venture.)

He tried to fault Mayor Plusquellic on downtown's progress, claiming you could shoot a cannon down Main Street at 5 pm and not hit anybody. Must be something stuck in Finley's eye, because I noticed quite a few folks out on the street at 6:30 and a lot more seated at various eateries along the Main strip -- and there was no ball game in the park tonight.

No, we're not even close to Greenwich Village foot traffic downtown, but as a former downtown Akron resident in the late 80s and early 90s, I can tell you that downtown is a lot more attractive and alive now. (See picture below of some genuine walking breathing living art in downtown Akron.) I give the current mayor a lot of credit for all the downtown improvements.

The impression I received tonight from Mr. Finley was one of an opportunist, who is trying to ride the wave of voter unrest with rising costs and taxes. I agree that Plusquellic's tax proposal on the May ballot was ill-conceived and not at all compelling as something essential for the common good. However, that's not enough to make me turn to someone who says he can change things but doesn't tell me how other than firing some cabinet members he calls excessive.

The other speaker was Michael Douglas, editor of the Akron Beacon Journal's editorial page. He was dressed very elegantly and on his way to see the Cavs vs the Spurs. But he graciously answered many questions before galloping off to the game. I imagine he had quite good seats.

Douglas had lots to say about the restructuring of the paper under the new ownership. It has been a brutal year for the Beacon with lots of staff cuts and migrating advertising dollars moving on to line other pockets. You might think that this would lead to some empathy for those who have also lost jobs due to bad trade agreements. Unfortunately, free trade seems to be something the editorial board is all for, which is why they didn't endorse Sherrod Brown. Gotta keep opening new markets for more unnecessary goods that will eventually end up in toxic landfills.

I was greatly disappointed that neither speaker today addressed environmental issues in and around Akron. That is one area the current mayor has done more for than either of the two men at the microphone tonight -- I grant him that -- with the stipulation that he needs to step it up even more if he wants this city to grow greener and more attractive to new eco-business as well as its citizens.

Various distractions...

...keep me from posting as regularly as I would like. I've spent heaps of time outdoors, pulling weeds, watering and mulching. It is also the time of the year to face the piles of things to be filed.

At school, I fell into a habit of just tossing everything I hadn't filed into boxes at the end of the school year, promising myself I'll get to them "next year." But the next year never has time for that. Filing is the sort of activity that is always at the bottom of the list of Things To Be Done. Filing has no deadline associated with it, and that can lead to massive disorder and chaos!

Unfortunately, school is not the only place where piles of files can take over too many square feet of desk and table space. So I'm facing my file drawers at home and at work this week. The only thing that keeps it bearable is that there is a good solid organizational base within each drawer. The file folders may be dusty and untouched for too long, but by golly -- they are contained in drawers by subject and in alphabetical order! It is only a matter of sifting through each box of loose papers and clippings and putting each item in its proper place.

This time, I will be ruthless I promise myself! I will send boxes of paper to the recycle bin and try very hard not to accumulate so much in the future.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

EBay CEO supports Mitt Romney

In today's ABJ, I found this little item buried deep inside:

EBay chief executive to speak for Romney

CLEVELAND: Meg Whitman, chief executive officer of eBay, will visit The Union Club, 1211 Euclid Ave., on Monday to support a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Whitman will be available for a roundtable discussion at 6 p.m. and deliver remarks at a general reception at 6:30.

The cost is $500 for the roundtable and general reception, or $250 for the general reception.

Eww. I use Ebay quite a bit. Now every time I go there, I'm going to be thinking about Mitt Romney. Drat!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Making a real impact on the electric bill

My electric bill was almost $20 lower this month. I reduced my usage that much by turning off the power strip that holds all my computer and related plug-ins. I do this every time I'm not using the computer, so it is off a good deal of the day and when I'm sleeping. I'm amazed that it made that much difference, but since I began this new habit at the beginning of May and the bill is from May 8 - June 6, the evidence is very convincing.

FirstEnergy, our local electric power conglomerate, has announced that it will be offering "green" power as an option for its customers. The following news release was downloaded from First Energy's website:

Akron, OH – A green option will be available to FirstEnergy’s (NYSE: FE) Ohio
utility customers under a proposed program filed today with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Customers interested in supporting renewable energy could do so through an added charge on their monthly electric bill beginning as early as this summer.

The green product program would offer customers of Ohio Edison, The Cleveland
Electric Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison the option to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). A single REC is equivalent to one megawatt-hour of electricity produced from a qualifying resource. The company designed the program in collaboration with the staff of the PUCO and the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. If approved by the PUCO, the program could be in place as early as this summer.

“We are pleased to offer a cost-effective way for customers to support alternative
energy in our region,” said Anthony J. Alexander, president and chief executive officer of FirstEnergy. “If approved, this program also could help begin the process of encouraging future development of alternative energy sources.”

Under the program, the company will purchase up to 150,000 RECs from qualifying
resources. Customers will have the option of purchasing the RECs in 100 kilowatt-hour blocks, and may purchase from 2 to 50 blocks each month. Customers can discontinue their participation at any time. The price of the RECs will be primarily determined by the outcome of a competitive process in which companies offering RECs will be invited to submit bids.

The green product program is offered as part of a stipulation filed in the companies’
remand proceeding before the PUCO, which was instituted to permit the companies to offer customers another means to participate in the competitive market.
This is great news, especially since the very latest reports on global warming say that we are heating up the planet three times faster than predicted. I will happily pay extra for renewable sources of energy. My biggest fear is that I'll be the only one in Akron who signs up for it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

How Many More Mother's Sons Will Die in Iraq?

We have reached another vile benchmark --3500 Us soldiers now dead in Iraq. Presidential candidate Mike Gravel says in a campaign letter to the Village Green:
"To understand why over 70% of Iraqis want our troops out of Iraq, consider that peer-reviewed research by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health indicates about 818,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the U.S. invasion. The U.S. population is about 12 times the size of the Iraqi population. Thus, the suffering our invasion has unleashed on Iraq is comparable to an extra 9.8 million violent deaths in the U.S. during the last four years, or equivalent to killing every person in 10 U.S. states and two major U.S. cities."
This week, another "perfect son" from Green, lost his life in Bush's tragic misadventure. What will be the magic number of casualties on our side that finally ends the slaughter? Assuredly nobody seems to care how many Iraqis are killed.

You might want to send a link to your Senator or Representative to the video below. It's a haunting cover version/video of the Kinks' "Some Mother's Son" from Arthur, of the Decline and Fall of British Civilization, by doctorcastille via YouTube:

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Low Impact Fortnight

Uh oh. Looks like the last day of Low Impact Day has arrived and I'm only half way through my house. Low Impact Week at home coincides with the high intensity of the last week of school and all the attendant rituals, such as graduations, out-door days (formerly known as "field day"), clearing out the rubble from lockers and other storage areas, and packing up for the summer months.

Just because the official, as brought to you by Crunchy Chicken's blogs, Low Impact Week ends at midnight, doesn't mean I'm stopping with an examination of how I can make more individual improvements in my home and garden that will lead to less strain on the environment. So, look for more posts on:

The home office
The home studio
The living room
The basement
The garage.

Yikes, this might take me through the rest of the month!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A stage full of fossils and other relics

Watching the debate of Republican all-male, all-white candidates for president is a lot like deciding which flavor of vanilla ice cream will go best with the white cake to be served at the church picnic. I guess it all depends upon which church's picnic you are willing to attend.

They sure did spend a lot of time talking about their various versions of "god." Best moment of the night was Giulani's response to Catholic criticism of his stance on abortion rights for women -- loud electric zaps shorted out his microphone as he attempted to strike a rational position in the face of a united troglodyte need to own and control the female's uterus. How many true believers watching at home turned to their companions and said -- "Did you hear that dear, Giulani is the devil's spawn!"

It is good to see so many of them dividing the dazed and confused Republican base. I liked the instant response graphics that showed how Independents reacted to various statements throughout the debate. No candidate is actually winning this thing. The numbers remain stagnant. As usual, Ron Paul was the only one who stood against the war in Iraq. With 72% of the population opposed to the war, I have to wonder just who these war-supporting Republicans think they are going to win over in a general election.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Making Less Impact in the Kitchen

Actually, I need to make some kind of impact in the kitchen beyond Less Impact. The dishes are piled in the sink, the refrigerator needs cleaning out and so do the cupboards. Since there are no Merry Maids plying their trade here, I guess it will be up to me to get things back in order here. As I did mention, we are in the End of the School Year Zone, which means that there's a school year's worth of clutter to deal with here and at work. Those who think teachers have it made with all our "vacation" days off per year, haven't realized that it takes all summer to file things away and catch up on all the cleaning that was neglected during those long days tending your children!

But back to making genuine steps toward Less Impact in the kitchen. Here's some advice:

Get rid of stuff you don't need. How many pots and pans do you really need versus how many are stuffed into cabinets? Do you really need three ladles? For those who are on tight schedules and who tend to let dishes pile up -- consider downsizing the amounts of glasses, cups, dishes and silverware in your kitchen. You will be forced to wash the dishes more often if you have less available to take out of the cupboard.

Get rid of foodstuffs that have been living for years in cupboards and in the backs of refrigerators and make note of what hasn't been used so that you never make the mistake of buying it again.

If I had lots of money, I'd definitely replace the old refrigerator in my kitchen with a new energy efficient model. But at this time, replacing something that is still running is not an option. Perhaps one day. Or I can keep entering the Soy Silk Sweepstakes to win a "green appliance" makeover for my home. Because, quite frankly -- greenifying one's home and life to the maximum effect is still very expensive.

Of course, there are the tactics employed by No Impact Man who simply turned off his refrigerator and tried a primitive form of cooling system involving a pot inside of another pot. But now he has come into contact with an inventor from India who has come up with a clay cooler that can hold fruits, vegetables and milk (for the lactos among us) for three days -- and it doesn't run on electricity! Check out the picture and description here and No Impact Man's insightful post here.

Making less impact in the kitchen also involves doing away with the myriad cleaning products under the sink. You don't need anything more than baking soda, vinegar, and some Dr. Bronner's liquid soap.

One of the most difficult things to do to make less impact is to stop buying products with packaging you know is going straight to the landfill. You will find that many of your favorite foodstuffs as well as personal care products are encased in plastics that will live longer than you will, no matter what you do with them. Akron only recycles #1 and #2. For a fun Less Impact Week activity, try making 7 boxes and labelling them 1 - 7. Now throw all your discarded plastics into the appropriately numbered box. How fast does each box fill? Imagine each human being in this country filling similar boxes and then remember that plastic is going to stick around on this planet far longer than humans.

Along with plastics, any paste board (all cardboard stock that is not corrugated) is not an Akron recyclable. How many things do you buy that are encased not only in non-corrugated cardboard AND in plastic as well?

By the way, I really have to thank Crunchy Chicken for instigating Low Impact Week. It has helped focus me on practice as well as theory in the department of greening the Green! Crunch is having a contest for all Low Impact Week participants. Take a visit to her blog and find out just who is making a Low Impact and how they can inspire you to do the same.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Presidential Debate II

In the blogosphere I reside in, John Edwards is not the front runner and definitely did not win tonight's debate. The folks at Daily Kos are all for him. I wasn't wild about him when he ran for VP and I don't see much to recommend. Oh yes, he has "good ideas" and "progressive values" -- but can he hit the ground running and take care of all the major problems if elected president? I don't see much evidence of practical experience in his resume. He was in government for one term as a US Senator. Before that he made lots of money as a lawyer, and was evidently effective at using emotional manipulation in making his jury summations. Good thing I was never on one of his juries, as he has yet to move me in any discernible way. Wikipedia has a lengthy overview of Edward's career in law as well as in politics.

Barack Obama was sounding better to me tonight, until the moment of the hypothetical question: Would you order the slaughter of Bin Laden if you knew he could be taken out and you only had twenty minutes to get it done? Obama would "take him out," while Dennis Kucinich very properly said he should be put on trial for his crimes.

But Hillary Clinton trumped everybody with her refusal to answer all the leading hypothetical questions. She comes across as the one who knows how to get things done. Although I'm glad that Mike Gravel and Kucinich are continuing to ask the tough questions, at the end of the race, I do expect Hillary to take it all and I'll be glad to vote for her.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Low Impact in my bedroom and closets

Day two of Low Impact Week. I've taken a good look at what's in my bedroom and my closets.

Most of the furniture is solid wood and was either handed down or purchased at a thrift store. There are, however, two cheap bookshelves made from composite wood products that need to leave just as soon as I downsize the book collection sometime over the summer.

I'll be freecycling the extra television and still working VHS player in the bedroom. I never use it, but I note that the VHS player is plugged in and draining power -- ack! And here is an incandescent light bulb that I somehow overlooked when I replaced them with compact fluorescent bulbs. Low Impact Week is a wake-up call in a very personal, pay attention to what you are doing sort of way.

In the closets are too many pieces of clothing, not that I am some kind of "dedicated follower of fashion." The important thing to consider when buying fabric items, clothing and bedding, towels, etc -- is can you be sure that the cloth came from pesticide free sources, that it was woven by people who were paid fairly for their labor, and that it is something that will not wear out immediately, both physically and in terms of wanting to wear it in public.

When in doubt, thrift shop! Check the labels for fabric content and country of origin and look at what you have in your hands. Does it look like someone put some effort into the creation of the fabric? Do you really want to wear something made in China? At least at the thrift store, you are not putting money directly into the hands of the people who made suspect products. And you are recycling and keeping things out of the landfills.

When you do feel moved to shop for new clothes, look online for low impact items. How about organic hemp shirts, pants and shoes? I buy tee shirts from GoodHemp.com. I bought a pair of Blackspot shoes from Adbusters. Now if they'd only make some sandals and a decent flexible hightop more suitable for athletics and other forms of performance such as dance and theatre.

But back to my closets -- they are in need of a thorough weeding out of things that no longer fit, suit or are useful to me. That shirt with the grease stain that will never come out -- it can be cut into usable bits and recycled. These pants with the grass stains can be cut up for rags. And everything else I don't need goes to the Goodwill. And, in the spirit of Low Impact Week, this trip I'll make sure to bring back much less than what I am taking to donate!

Next post for Low Impact Week -- the kitchen.

Entering the end of the school year zone

Four more school days for the kiddies, while I have to summon the energy to get through three more weeks of school related obligations.

I am embarrassed to admit that I couldn't even put up a Friday rock and roll clip last night, dropping into sleep on the couch and waking up at 2 AM just enough so I could climb up the stairs to bed.

Today I'm off to the Irish/Scottish Festival in N. Canton. Later on today, I'll get to my second Low Impact week post focusing on the bedroom and closets.

Until then, here's a sunny Saturday afternoon rock and roll clip: