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The Tolman Guide to Green Living

This blog is intended to spread the word about the project I have been working on for the last two years, The Tolman Guide to Green Living in Portland.

Do you want to learn how to eat organic in Portland on $7 a day? Every wonder what happens to all that water that hits your roof and spills down the gutters? Do you want more resources for raising urban chickens? The Tolman Guide tells you how and what to do with all that water. The Tolman Guide is a guide designed to help the homeowner move away from harmful practices to the earth, to earth-friendly practices. Born from a Natural Resource Management class offered Spring 2006 from the Department of Geography at Portland State University, the Guide features 230 tips for the eager do-it-yourselfer.

The PDF is available online at or get a hard copy from Metro, Ecotrust, or the Office of Sustainable Development. Going green has never been so easy.

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Cradle to Cradle

G.M. Reports Quarterly Loss of $722 Million. This was the headline of the NY Times as I checked the headlines this morning. The article goes on to explain that it’s $1.28 a share and compared with the $950 million profit or $1.68 a share from the same period last year. That’s a difference of $1.672 billion dollars. Peter keeps saying, you just watch, G.M. will close all its U.S. plants and head to Mexico (or whatever 3rd World Country wins the next smokestacking bid).

Why can’t they utilize, though, something more inclusive in their planning? Why do we have to stay stuck in the same pattern? Wasn’t it Einstein who said, “Insane is defined as doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” Let’s change our practice from Cradle to Grave to Cradle to Cradle.

With Cradle to Cradle a company would be responsible for their creation for the entire lifecycle. This would put the burden of disposal on the producer. If the producer is forced to care for their product, they would have a resource to build new products without mining for many new raw materials. They would create jobs within their sector for properly servicing their product and it would be in their best interest to create quality products.

So, what do you all think would happen if G.M. decided because of this what seems to me a huge loss, that they would take this information, learn from it and decide we need to do something differently. Let’s take up the Cradle to Cradle philosophy and build quality cars that people could drive for 50 years, we’ll truly service them, and we will use the old cars for new cars. Then, we could be more Green than Honda or Toyota could dream of. Or would people pooh-pooh it, and when the economy has an upswing, they’ll be fried again? Can it happen? In our lifetime? Our grandfather’s fought for those union jobs, and now they are disappearing.

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Our Digital Age

I’ve written about this topic before. But, I suppose it will never cease to amaze me, kind of like the pager craze. My brother and his friends (Rob & Jeremy) all had pagers more than half a decade ago. It kind of felt like they were our special friends with their pagers. But now, we have phones that are music players, voice records, schedulers, and phones too. It makes sense to condense all these items we now deem oh, so important into one, but I wonder sometimes when it will stop. Will we be able to create full presentations, publication-ready documents, or maps from our palm-centrals in a few years? Or will it hold steady at basic functions like Word and Internet Exploring?

I’m also, always, amazed at how difficult it can be to get a hold of people in our digital age. We have email, phones, and regular-old in person contact, but how many of us are really connecting with each other? We have people who are tech-crazy and we have people who’d rather take the technology and shove it. It’s like we have this odd dichotomy brewing which is aiding in the loneliness our society, as a whole, feels.

I’m taking two Geography classes this term, each will require a project. In my quest to define, study, and understand this concept called Sustainability, one facet I have not really explored is Waste. Overall, however, I am interested in the education of the topic, educating people different ways of living our lives. A few years ago I was able to define it as “Educating people about the importance of a sustainable society.” So, in these classes, Thursday, we got together and discussed base tenants of our interest, this case being waste.

Regarding waste, I am interested in the cycles of waste. For example, why do we buy compost at the store when if we did things differently around our yard, we’d have a “free” supply? I’m interested in waste, how we waste things; and I’m interested in the concept of throwing things away. Some recycling advocates, some environmental advocates, and other “greens” want our vocabulary to change regarding trash. If we think of everything as trash, then we lose the potential to do other things with this “trash”. A point was made by one of the gentlemen in my group. He pointed out that since we live in such a disposable society, basically, everything we’re living in is trash. So, because we ultimately throw everything away in the end, we’re living in trash at different stages of its life. And he thinks that this is a major factor contributing to our depression and loneliness in our society.

Since our communication age doesn’t help us communicate any more, and we’re constantly living in and surrounding ourselves with trash, is there any hope? I will end with a question I would like answered. What’s your view of our disposable society, and do you agree with that claim, that living in trash leads to our dysfunction?

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Country Music & The Service

I have been completely inundated, by choice, with country music. Something has changed in me since becoming pregnant and having a baby. I used to tolerate, better, swearing, cuss words, in every day language and in media I would watch or listen. But not anymore. (That’s not to say that I don’t need to clean up my mouth.) So, since Peter has a plethora of country music on the computer, it’s easy to pick from and listen. A song by Kenny Chesney was played at Cristi’s funeral, and that helped tip the balance in favor of country music.

One of the artists on the computer is Toby Keith. When Peter and I would take trips to Mt. Hood or the Coast, the CD Shock ‘n Yall would frequently be played. Most of the songs have a catchy beat and easy lyrics. When we’d come to the songs regarding our War in Iraq, though, I wouldn’t enjoy the music as much, listening to the music and feeling a pro-war agenda being sung. I’ve been listening to these same songs now for months, and I have listened to the lyrics better. (I’m one of those people who needs to at least try and understand the lyrics of the song I’m jamming’ too.) It became clear that the lyrics were not pro-war but rather pro-soldier. One of my biggest pet peeves while expressing distaste for this war is being chastised for being anti-soldier, and that’s just not the case. Those who are saying, “Bring the Troops Home, Now!” want our American Boys and Girls to be safe and with their families. They would rather see their energy and enthusiasm used for causes at home instead of abroad where the motivations are sketchy at best. I must say I was surprised to learn that Toby Keith had similar sentiments. He is quoted as saying,

“Here’s the thing. Just because you’re pro-troops doesn’t mean you’re pro-war. And just because you’re anti-war doesn’t mean you’re anti-troops. Just because you don’t support the war people think you are anti-troops and you are a bad guy. And just because you go support the troops and rah-rah the troops up all of a sudden you’re pro-war. Those are the two biggest misconceptions of the whole thing.”

I had been listening to this guy for so long and getting irritated with his songs which I thought were misplaced patriotism. And, then I learn he voted for Clinton, twice.

Now, I may be wrong here, but it seems country singers are more likely to sing and support our troops. I don’t care what your feelings are about the wars in which we partake, it’s so important to support our troops. (And I know I don’t do any job of that.) My brother-in-law is in the Army National Guard and his mother regularly sends him care packages. My uncle was in the navy, another was in the army, another in the air force. Two of my grandfathers were in WWII, one a nurse in Germany and the other in the Air Force serving in the Pacific. We all know someone who has served. I get this idealized image of heroic men and women who put their wants at bay to serve the greater good, whether or not we agree with their orders.

There are more disorganized thoughts running through my head, so I will close with a question. Do you know anyone who has served in the military, someone relatively close, and what have you done to “support” them?

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The Political (Rat) Race

This person, who knows my cousin, has been sending a few emails to everyone on my Aunt’s email list. The latest email was an endorsement for Ron Paul, a House Representative for Texas by way of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gary claimed that Dr. Paul was the first worthwhile candidate he has every seen and that it is now time for him to get off his lazy bum and endorse a candidate that means something.

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all tired of the political process. Many people want to stay out of politics because it’s dirty and corrupt, but politics is the life-bread of America. Everything is run by politics, and to ignore politics is to ignore our own fate. It’s nice to see people becoming impassioned enough to get involved, but the question begs, who are they really supporting? Is the candidate saying a few choice things to rally the troops, but the straight-talking politician, is he as two-faced and double speaking as the rest of his colleagues? Yes, yes he is.

I was curious why this person would be so adamant to support Dr. Paul, so checked out the link provided. His front page reminds the viewer of the next two primaries, New Hampshire (22 days) and Iowa (17 days). He also has his 4th quarter donation totals, $18,358,611.00. My first thought was that maybe he’s upfront about what he’s received. I have no concept of an amount of money that large, so I have no idea if it’s a large or not. So, I checked out Open Secrets and see what money they’ve tracked. Compared to rest of the candidates he is very low in his fundraising. I think now the $18,000 was a total and not a per quarter total.

I also examined his stance on the issues he details as the important ones. He’s listed Debt & Taxes, American Independence, War, Life & Liberty, The Second Amendment, Social Security, Education, No Taxes on Tips, Border Security & Immigration, Privacy & Personal Liberty, Property Rights & Eminent Domain, Health Freedom, Home Schooling, Health Care, Environment, and Racism as the important ones. It certainly seems like an extensive list. But, when I examined the text of lists I found that he often contradicts himself while trying to make a point. He wants to protect our borders without detailing funding and cut taxes. In each point, he only tells how he feels about such point without giving clear paths, ideas, goals for achieving these things. And, more recently, he has been “snubbed by Fox and shut out of a GOP presidential candidate forum. If he’s been snubbed by a supposed right-leaning network, how far off the spectrum of your chosen party do you have to be?

And, Barack and Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus. Clearly, it seems, Americans want change, a reason why my cousin’s friend would blindly vote for someone. And, clearly, we vote for candidates who do obvious double speak. But, what will it take for a true straight-talking candidate to emerge, and win. A candidate who isn’t clearly imbued by one bias or another, a candidate that can speak to the various aspects of America. What will it take to get a candidate that sees hope and wants to preserve our future for future generations, so my kids’ kids’ can have a green, healthy, planet in which to argue the constitution and dubious candidates?

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The Computer Age

Finding Forrester is about a young boy who accidentally finds a famous author past his prime. During his time with Forrester, the boy learns how to write, better than he ever has. He learns how to focus his thoughts and put them to print, all by using a typewriter. The question I have is what has happened to our writing now that we are in the computer age. Everything is so much faster. It’s clear that punctuation has gone out the window. When we write something for publication, a paper or otherwise, when you make a mistake it’s a quick point and click fix, compared to the typewriter age where you’d have to retype the entire page you were working on, if looking for a perfect final. I suspect that now that we have computers to make our lives easier, things take longer and are less correct than if we were using a permanent medium to construct our work.

I believe that in our computer age, all of these things are fluid or forgotten, and that along with many other electronic solutions, computers don’t really help us do anything faster. Rather, they add to the complication of our lives when we are striving for simplicity. To examine this point, I will look at three segments of writing: the main point, punctuation, and deadlines.

The Main Point
With the advent of email, stream of consciousness is the prevailing method of writing. With stream of consciousness as the guiding writing, principal basic tenants of writing seem to be lost such as focus. I’m guilty of this in many of my writings. Although I will have a main point, or central theme, I will get sidetracked with tangents and often not go back to the theme.

It feels like if we were not in the computer age, we’d be penning these thoughts instead of typing them, and the thoughts reserved for type would have had several rough-written drafts before being committed to typeface. Once committed to typeface it was permanent. What’s on that page better be complete because after you set it to go, there is no turning back once you’ve printed thousands on the expensive paper. You would hope there was a coherent theme, points to integrate the theme, and a conclusion to tie it all together. Nevertheless, with our Computer Age, we just sit back and type whatever comes to mind, hit send, and let it wander around forever in its permanent editable state on the internet.

Punctuation really needs to be included with proofreading, and simply the ability to type. I type fast. The fastest I’ve been tested is near 100 words per minute. Although my speed is great, it’s not that required of legal secretaries. Moreover, to top it off, my error rate is high at 1-3%. That means I do a lot of backspacing and spell check use. In fact, as I write this I’m typing it into an email which will be sent to Blog Spot. I use the email method, Outlook, instead of Word because the formatting is less on the actual blog. Regardless, I have the things required: spell and grammar check as I type, spacing corrections, and all grammar styles I could dream of. Actually, it’s telling me right now that I need to change that “of” over there because it’s an end-of-sentence preposition.

Spell check, as we’ve all seen, doesn’t catch everything. I could type a correctly spelled sentence that made no grammatical sense, a sentence that might not even be caught properly by the grammar check. This could be The Dumbing Down of America. Blindly correct all words and phrases and you have forgotten your grammar school grammar and you’re left with a paper that doesn’t make sense.

We’re living in a world so fast that it’s easy to hit the send button instead of forcing ourselves to look over what we’ve written. If we looked over what we have written we might see that the apostrophe doesn’t belong where we put it, the “I” really belongs with a “T”, not by itself, and quit is really supposed to be quiet or quite. We’d make questions questions, and we’d ignore Microsoft’s advice on where to put that comma before which or that.

I have a feeling that deadlines were deadlines back in the day. I have a feeling that people had a better sense of how long something would take. Pushing out a letter for a business certainly doesn’t take long, but if it’s for the Medical Director and three others need to see it before he does, you may be making changes until next week when the letter really should go out tomorrow. We print, review, print, review, and print and review again. Each time on screen and in print, we notice several changes that need to be made, never closer to a perfect publishable draft. So, what has happened to our timelines and sticking to them? What happened to working backwards, understanding how long it took for each segment, completing each task on time, and then, when it’s all done it’s done on time. They do it in the construction industry, with misspelled construction documents, but they get it done. Why not in the written world, the other business world, why don’t timelines mean anything anymore?

Every publication I’ve had a chance to work on has gone past its deadline. A good portion of the blame can be put on my shoulders as the inexperienced one with no clue what the timeline would look like. Nevertheless, in each instance, I was working with people who had been on the project before or had been on a similar project, so they should then have an idea of the required timeline. Therefore, you would think that their input would maintain the schedule they said I should follow. Except they were sidetracked with an email alerting them to the day’s fire that needs to be put out and the timeline is pushed back yet again.

To sum up these points, it feels like the computer age has assisted us in loosing focus, forgetting grammar, and disregarded timelines. This predicament reminds me of the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner was touted as an electronic device that would save the housewife time in her daily chores. What happened was a different story. The vacuum raised the bar on expected cleanliness. Now that it was easy to make sure the floor was swept on a regular basis, other things that were dusted weekly now needed to be dusted daily. It was a mark of accomplishment and comparison when people would visit each other’s homes. Her house must be as clean as mine must, or mine should be cleaner. Now, it seems we have a warped version of that trend, how much can we get done is the theme throughout. It’s no longer about quality but now about quantity. Fix “x” number of fires per day and just get them done instead of getting one done well.

I suppose the solution is one person at a time taking the time to stop and smell the roses. But who will start?

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America’s Wars – A Disorganized Rant

How many wars do we as Americans fight every day? How entwined is the concept of war in our daily lives? I think it’s so entwined that we can’t get away from fighting for anything. We’ve got the obvious: Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Spanish American-War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Gulf War II. And we have the less obvious, but still obvious: the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs. This doesn’t even take into consideration the covert operations of the CIA. Every day, our country is fighting against countless things, and for what?

WWII, and other wars, taught us that a war economy is good for the nation. Not only did it boost American worth compared to other nations with America coming out on top after the war was over. It certainly helped that Japan and Europe were devastated after the war so for some time they were unable to compete in the growing global markets. We were also united for a cause, regardless of other dissentions Zinn would talk about, this was the age of the Good Ole Boys. What kind of affect has war mentality, more specifically modern warfare had on our national psyche and our economy and our ways of conducting business? I thin it’s further empowered us to be zealots. Certainly, there are many examples of this mentality throughout history.

It seems that all major civilizations need be fighting about something in order for their society to work. Why is that? Why can’t we just have peace? Why can’t we learn to live in moderation, get along with others, have regular rough-n-tumble combat games to get out our aggression, and all the while learn to live peacefully with one another and take care of the planet we call home? Why can’t we learn that everything needs to be taken in moderation. (I’m not going to touch meth, crack, and heroine on this.) Remember that opium is medicinal when used in moderation, it doesn’t have to be heroine.

As anyone can see from reading my rants and raves, I’m fed up, in many areas, with our society. I’m terrified of bringing Levi up in this world where so much violence and abuse is flaunted on a daily basis. I’m sick to have to bring him up in a world that will most likely be wrought with more violent wars that we are dealing with now, and the possibility too several resource declines. What if he will have to wear a gas-mask to work in order to breath clean air? Where will his food come from? Kids who are on the street, in other words the street is there home, do drugs to abate the feeling of being hungry. What if everyone is homeless in 20 years? It’s so depressing and frustrating to think of the future we are creating for our children and our grandchildren, and yet what do we do about it? Mostly nothing because we are stuck going to work to pay the bills so we have a house to live in and a car to drive to work, now get back to work so you can afford to drive that car.

There’s a stream of consciousness rant that could be a creation of our Computer Age.