The Twelve Days of Fracking

[Sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. As much as I don’t like to associate a lovely song with the ugly realities of our day… well… I had to.]

On the first day of fracking                                   
The scientists said to us,
“We’re trashing our precious Earth.”

 On the second day of fracking                       
‘Ol Cheney gave to Bush
A gutted EPA
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the third day of fracking
The Supreme Court banged their gavel:
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the fourth day of fracking
Congress laughed and said
We’ll look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the fifth day of fracking
The fossil fuel giants counted:
**All their golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the sixth day of fracking
The shale rigs gave to us:
Contaminated groundwater
**All those golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the seventh day of fracking
The oil spills gave to us:
Dead birds a-floating
Contaminated groundwater
**All those golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the eighth day of frackingkoch brothers with santa hats
The Koch Empire banked on
Climate change deniers
Dead birds a-floating
Contaminated groundwater
**All those golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the ninth day of fracking
Everywhere we saw
Filthy, polluting liars
Climate change deniers
Dead birds a-floating
Contaminated groundwater
**All those golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

1920x800_10_lords_a_leaping-1024x426

On the tenth day of fracking
We cried and wrung our hands… because
Greedy lords a-pillaging
Filthy, polluting liars
Climate change deniers
Dead birds a-floating
Contaminated groundwater
**All those golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the eleventh day of fracking
First Nations pointed out:
Global injustice
Greedy lords a-pillaging
Filthy, polluting liars
Climate change deniers
Dead birds a-floating
Contaminated groundwater
**All those golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth.

On the twelfth day of fracking
The people woke and said,
STOP THE FRACKING MADNESS!
Global injustice
Greedy lords a-pillaging
Filthy, polluting liars
Climate change deniers
Dead birds a-floating
Contaminated groundwater
**All those golden billions**
Look the other way,
Corporations rule!
A gutted EPA,
And we’re trashing our precious Earth!

Personally, I prefer calling birds, turtle doves, geese, swans, and drummers drumming. 

LET’S MAKE 2015 THE YEAR WE CHANGE IT ALL.

Photo credit: Jose B. Ruiz

Photo credit: Jose B. Ruiz

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Check Out the Propaganda

In the weeks leading up to today’s election, I was surprised to find, while checking out at Price Chopper in Great Barrington yesterday, a pile of 3-1/2” x 8-12” cards with the heading “VOTE X NO ON NOVEMBER 4” with the subheading “STOP FORCED DEPOSITS”.

Huh?

Since when do grocery stores stack piles of printed political propaganda at the checkout counter?

Since “big beverage” opposes our statewide efforts to recycle more beverage containers and cut down on litter and the amount of recyclables clogging up our dumps, that’s when.

Question 2 asks voters in Massachusetts to decide whether or not to expand the existing “Bottle Bill” to include a 5-cent deposit on non-carbonated drink containers. If you’re thinking, “Wow. That’s probably too radical to consider,” then you’re someone who might Join the Fight! It’s easy. Just let your grocery store tell you how (to vote). 

But wait, should my neighborhood grocery store be telling me how to vote? And what, exactly, is the “fight” about?

Nicole Giambusso of O’Neill and Associates, the agency hired by the campaign to provide media relations and lobbying consulting services, did not know whether the strategy of placing printed promotional materials for political campaigns in grocery stores was setting a precedent, or whether there had been any negative customer response. But it certainly has not been commonplace in the Berkshires, and very well may be an example of the new reality of corporations influencing the political process.

According to the No on Question 2 website, the cards were printed and distributed by “a coalition of citizens, businesses, and community organizations” who have “come together to take a stand against Question 2 because it is outdated, expensive, and inconvenient.” And, yes, Price Chopper was listed among the 162 or so members of the coalition, which seems like an impressive number until you note that it includes places like Subway in Worcester, Rowley’s Liquors, and Ralph’s Tavern. Upstanding enterprises though these may be, they’re not exactly beacons for the public good. And No on Question 2 plays fast and loose with the facts in this fight. More on that below.

On the other hand, check out the YES on 2 website here presented by the Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill. In support of Yes on 2 are more than 120 local and state environmental and civic organizations, including Sierra Club, Mass Audubon, Environmental League of Massachusetts, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, and MASSPIRG, and more than 400 small businesses. Over 200 cities and towns passed resolutions in favor of it. Elected officials from the Berkshires announced their unanimous support for STOP Litter: YES on 2, as have Governor Deval Patrick and over 100 other statewide, municipal and legislative supporters. Plus, Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield and the Twinkle Star Boutique. What more needs to be said?

Unfortunately, the misinformation propaganda campaign is having a negative effect on polling results. We’ll know by tomorrow how it ended up.

If Massachusetts voters expand the Bottle Bill by voting YES on 2:

  • The number of water and non-carbonated beverage containers recycled will triple.
  • We will save the equivalent of approx. 1 trillion BTUs of energy.
  • About 1 trillion BTUs of saved energy could meet the total household energy needs of 11,000 households for one year. That’s equivalent to two-thirds of all households in Pittsfield.
  • We will reduce GHG emissions by about 35,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. That’s the same as taking about 7,000 cars off the road for a year.

(Sources: Fact 1, MassDEP; Facts 2-4 Container Recycling Institute)

But just to be fair, let’s take the No on Question 2 claims one by one:

“Outdated” and “Old Ideas”

Old ideas suck. That’s basically their argument. And they’re right. Take for example “love”, and “charity”, and “tooth brushing.” Old, old, old. But also, they claim we don’t need an updated Bottle Bill because we’ve got this new-fangled thing called “curbside recycling”. They states that “While forced deposit systems may have been needed 30 years ago, more than 90% of Commonwealth residents now have access to curbside and other community recycling programs. These are the recycling methods most Massachusetts residents prefer. By investing in these programs that are designed to handle all recyclable materials, Massachusetts can be a leader in recycling.”

But the reality is, 90% of Commonwealth residents do not have access to curbside recycling. The lower figure is misinformation, skewed to influence voters. In fact, as reported in The Boston Globe on October 3, 2014, David Cash, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which closely monitors and tracks recycling in cities and towns, says “only 47 percent of Massachusetts cities and towns offer curbside recycling, reaching 64 percent of the population.”[1] In other words, over half the cities and towns in Massachusetts don’t have curbside recycling.

And a large percentage of the population does not use curbside recycling. Why? For two key reasons:

  1. We mix things up at home. You know the type. They dump everything together – garbage, recyclables, batteries, motor oil, their dead cat or whatever – in a big, black plastic garbage bag, throw it out the door in the general direction of the curb, wipe their hands on their pajamas, and go back inside to watch 19 Kids and Counting on the tube.

Fact: Although recycling is the most common method of plastic waste pollution prevention, less than one percent of all plastics products are recycled in the U.S. Americans throw away 25,000,000 plastic beverage bottles every hour!

(Source: http://www.greenwaste.com)

That’s 25 million plastic beverage bottles every hour thrown in the trash heap or ending up as litter.

As an American, I am really fed up with us.

But we can take consolation from the fact that:

  1. We are a nation on the move. We’re moving fast, we’re going places, we’ve got it goin’ on. But all this moving makes us thirsty! We’ve got a beverage in hand, at the ready, at all times. Looks kinda stupid, when you think about it. Like we are risking dehydration walking across the street here in America, land of the thirsty. And in the course of all this movement, how many people do you know heft all their recyclable containers back home to recycle them? How often do you see people happily, cheerfully toss their recyclable bottles and cans right into the trash-trash can? All the time, that’s how often. Even when the recycle bin is right there next to the trash bin, whoops, there it goes. All of these habits – which are on the rise – take even more of a bite out of the argument that curbside recycling is the answer. It ain’t.

Unlike Big Beverage and their lover, Big Grocery, the diverse coalition of people, legislators, and organizations supporting an updated Bottle Bill have nothing to gain from updating the Bottle Bill except helping Massachusetts residents reduce litter and attempting to increase the sustainability of our staggering packaged beverage consumption. (Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that it is absurd to apply the concept of “sustainability” to our societal habit of guzzling liquids, especially water, from billions and billions of plastic, paper, and aluminum packages. It is not sustainable. Thank you.) But this kind of unselfish, public do-gooderness is making Big Beverage mighty nervous. When you consider that Big Beverage has been spending millions of dollars to undermine an updated Bottle Bill for 13 years, well. Think about it. Would Big Beverage dump $7.8 million dollars into misleading TV ads this year alone to slander something so beneficial to public health and to our environment as an updated Bottle Bill just because it is an “old idea” and therefore must suck? No. Selling stuff to people for way more than it’s worth is an old idea, but that still seems to work for them. No, expanding the Bottle Bill will cut into their bottom line. Because, darn, they may have to hire a couple more people to process the extra recyclables. But, wait. That means more jobs! And isn’t “more jobs” a mantra Big Beverage and Big Grocery should be embracing?

The other things that isn’t mentioned by Big Grocery and/or Big Beverage is that every time someone goes to the grocery store with a big ‘ol bag of cans and bottles to exchange for cash, they usually go into the store and buy something. Yup, they do. Subtract that increased revenue from the costs, and the financial burden of the deposit system is magically decreased!

We, apparently, are too stupid/lazy/sugar-addicted/thirsty-for-chemicals to prevent burying ourselves and every living creature unfortunate enough to share a planet with us under a mountain of eye-catching plastic, paper, and aluminum containers filled with creepy, unhealthy[2] liquids and – wait for it! – water. Water, which we could get out of a tap just about anywhere we choose to go. But after years of Big Beverage commodifying our most fundamental human resource – water – most of us don’t remember the last time we drank from a water fountain and we’ve been programmed to believe it’s filthy habit that should be relegated to the third world (if they were lucky enough to have the advanced public water systems and water fountains that we can’t be bothered to use).

The Bottle Bill has been a resounding success since its establishment in 1983, when it was passed to reduce litter and increase the recycling of containers from the most common beverages of the day – beer and soda – by adding a redeemable nickel deposit to each bottle and can sold. For three decades, more than 75 percent of deposit beverage containers have been recycled in Massachusetts. The recycling of water and non-carbonated beverage containers will triple if the Bottle Bill is expanded under Question 2. There’s no doubt that the cash refund motivates people to recycle their beverage containers. So don’t even go there.

“Expensive”

The NO on 2 coalition claims that “Question 2 would [cost]…almost $60 million a year to collect and handle the new containers.”

They complain that supermarkets would incur the additional costs and would pass them on to consumers. But don’t forget, grocery stores and other redemption centers receive 3.5 cents per container, which is sufficient to cover the cost of handling. Ken Kimmell, former Commissioner of the DEP, commissioned extensive research into neighboring states with an expanded bottle law (Maine and Connecticut, at the time) and with Massachusetts store owners, Reverse Vending Machine vendors, and state officials, that found that “there already exists sufficient infrastructure and capacity to handle the additional beverage containers” of an expanded Bottle Bill.[3] In most cases, the machines taking recyclables at grocery stores and elsewhere use only a small fraction of their capacity. So the costs to expand these services would be negligible.

According to Phil Sego of the Sierra Club and the Yes on 2 campaign, the grocers used the same “too expensive” scare tactics in 1982 when the original Bottle Bill was passed, and the dire warnings of grocery price increases were not borne out. They made the same threats in other states where expansions have occurred, including CT, NY, ME, and CA, and prices did not go up.

Studies also show that the over-the-counter price of non-carbonated beverages varies very little between states that have an expanded Bottle Bill and those that do not.

“Inconvenient”

Inconvenient for whom? Big Beverage CEOs, who might have to forego that third Jaguar or putting an addition on their house in the Caymans this year? In a study of the top 30 trade associations in the US that spent more than $17.5 million each influencing policy during the Obama administration – which includes the American Beverage Association – the average CEO salary, including incentives and deferred compensation, was $2.34 million per year.

Since when does inconvenience rule public policy? One could argue that, sometimes, it’s inconvenient to obey traffic laws like those pesky speed limits and parking regulations. And it’s almost always inconvenient not to pee in public spaces. But we don’t. For the most part.

What is truly inconvenient are the millions of tons of litter in public places in Massachusetts and the precious landfill space wasted on recyclables that should and could be returned for deposit refunds. In a MassDEP-commissioned study of litter picked up at community cleanup events around the state, non-deposit beverage containers accounted for 63% of the litter. Massachusetts municipalities would save nearly $7 million annually cleaning up litter and trash through an expanded Bottle Bill.

Who Picks Up the Trash?

All of this consumption, fed by advertising, producing billions of tons of waste, raises the larger question: should corporations be required to take financial and operational responsibility for their waste? Think GE. Think BP. Or is it simply too “inconvenient”?

If society must bear the cost for cleaning up messes, well, then an updated Bottle Bill is just the thing. But for 13 years, Big Beverage has been using tactics like heavy lobbying and misinformation campaigns to fight it. So far, the investment has paid off. This November, who knows? The propaganda currently spouting misinformation is primarily funded by top contributors, listed on the card: C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc.; Roche Bros., Inc.; Big Y Foods, Inc.; The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC; and American Beverage Association. Propaganda is a powerful thing. But so are groups of people concerned about the future of the planet and maintaining a quality of life that doesn’t include giant garbage skyscrapers as depicted in the prophetic movie, Idiocracy. New York, Connecticut and Maine have already successfully expanded their bottle and can deposit laws. Will Massachusetts be next?

For more information visit:

Yes on 2 www.yeson2ma.org

MASSPIRG www.masspirg.org

The Container Recycling Institute http://www.container-recycling.org

MA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Bottle and Can Recycling http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/recycle/reduce/bottle-and-can-recycling.html

[1] “Advertisements with Inaccurate Data Aid Foes of Wider Bottle Law”. By David Abel . The Boston Globe. Friday, October 3, 2014. http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/10/02/bottle-question-supporters-decry-ads-support-grows-for-opponents-question/hJG1Hc20xLOIEO4aZWa3PM/story.html

[2] According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the “rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.” See “Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet,” The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health, June 2012. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/

[3] “Ken Kimmell Testifies on Behalf of the Bottle Bill,” MassDEP, Ken’s View – Archives from Former Commissioner Kimmell. July 2011. http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/about/commissioner/archives/its-time-for-massachusetts-to-update-the-bottle-bill.html

Sun, Sun, Sun… Let it Shine! (Sing it out loud as in the chorus of “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles)

Marching in the People’s Climate March inspired me to take action on installing solar at my home! I have been wanting to do this for a long time, so what am I waiting for?! I’m sure I can’t afford it, but there’s no harm in researching those zero down options for leasing and loans, right? So here goes…

Today, I happened to see an article on Treehugger (this cannot be a coincidence!) entitled “Google and SunPower pump $250 million more into residential solar leasing” by Zachary Shahan, who covers solar technology and regular ‘ol technology for Treehugger. In the article, Zachary covers the benefits and not-benefits of solar leasing. One of the steps for figuring out if your house is a good option for solar, and learning how much savings you can accomplish (as if savings was the point of solar – duh!) is to visit EnergySage, a company out of Cambridge, MA (yay, Massachusetts!) and plug in your address and info from your current electric bill. It was super easy to sign up and enter the information. I hesitated before checking the box that asked if I wanted to get quotes from local installers. But that is the whole point of the website, so I went ahead and did it. I drew the line at entering my phone number. I will wait and see what happens online first. But, hey, go for it if you’re not a nervous ninny like some people I could name.

Once you complete the form at EnergySage, you wait for the installers to contact you. Basically, they’re fighting over you. And that feels good, admit it! I’m picturing them actually wrestling in some sunny parking lot. Probably wearing hardhats with solar logos on them. Cool!

Meanwhile, they set you up with a Your Marketplace page where you can “Manage your property profile, monitor quotes, research installers & products and compare quotes to choose the best option.” I added a few more details about my home and financing preferences (“Grab money as it floats down from the sky” wasn’t one of the options. Darn.)

energysage_Eddy profile

So now… I wait! And run outside a hundred times today to obsessively peer from the sun to my roof and check for shadows (no! no shadows!) on this beautiful, cold, sunny, autumnal day in the Berkshires. I’m psyched!

Sweatin’ to the Tune of Climate Action

Yup, I dragged my tired self out to the kick-off meeting of the newly formed 350 Massachusetts Berkshire County node on Monday night. I left my son, my elderly mother, and my doggie home to fend for themselves, which I don’t often do… just because I like to be home when my son is home, because he’s not home much any more, and I love him like crazy. But I went to this meeting because… I love him like crazy, and I want him to have a happy life on a planet that’s not burning up.

350 MA Logo

So I ventured out to Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA, to find out what these great folks are up to. They’re up to a lot. And that’s good. Because continuing to extract and use fossil fuels stinks. It always stank, I guess, but now it stinks big time, because we’re messing things up in so many ways, and we should care because, even as a 110% selfishly motivated species, we’re dooming our own future. Dooming it all to hell.

The evening featured Massachusetts State Senator Ben Downing, who turns out to be a really good dude. Not only does he have a sense of humor about his male-pattern balding, a rare and admirable trait (the humor, not necessarily the balding, though, hey, why not?), but he cares about the future of our earth. He is stepping up for our very own, eensy-weensy precious earth and the creatures who depend on it – a place, by the way, we should cherish and not TRASH every chance we get – and he’s using his position as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (i.e. Committee on Alotta Big Important Stuff) to do good things, such as introduce Bill S.1225, An Act relative to public investment in fossil fuels. It is “a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 1225) of Benjamin B. Downing for legislation relative to public investment in fossil fuels.”

I know, I know. If you’re a non-political person like me, the aforementioned sentence makes your brain seize up and go all haywire. But this Bill S.1225 is good. It’s a good thing. Trust me. It says (in 1,002 words, which I shall paraphrase) …The public fund shall sell, redeem, divest or withdraw all publicly-traded securities of each [yucky fossil fuel] company identified in section 2 according to the following schedule: (i) at least 20 per cent of such assets shall be removed from the public fund’s assets under management within 1 year of the effective date of this act… [etcetera, etcetera, very exciting verbiage goes here] … 100 per cent of such assets shall be removed from the public fund’s assets under management within 5 years of the effective date of this act.” That means, if the Bill gets approved, or passed, or whatever they do with bills out there in Boston in those big scary buildings… the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust will have DIVESTED all state employee pension funds from fossil fuel investments by 5 years from the date the bill is passed, or 2019, or thereabouts. REALLY! That’s epic. Massachusetts would be the first state to do this in the entire nation.

There are some very compelling reasons to get behind this bill. On Fossil Free, a website that helps people create and implement divestment campaigns, they list a few humdingers: the burning of fossil fuels is destroying the climate; extreme weather events underline the urgency of the issue; divestment from fossil fuels is a moral issue; investment in fossil fuels presents risk to investors; investment in fossil fuels stunts Massachusetts’ other green efforts. To mention a few.

I and a multitude of others applaud Senator Downing’s true leadership and forward thinking (something that politicians often seem to be allergic to) on this issue of global climate change. It’s nice to live in a state where one’s representatives are rational, reasonable people who trust the world’s greatest scientists when they say we’ve already gone too far, carbon-wise. It’s nice to boast a political representative who doesn’t have his or her head up his or her backside like so many of our nation’s leaders (not all of them… some have their heads plugged firmly in the sand). But it isn’t law yet. And five years is one-quarter of the mere 20 years we have left to bring carbon emissions under control. Yes. Huge challenge. Gotta get on with it. Right now. Mitigating global climate change. It’s hard even to fathom what that means. Yes, friends, we are no longer talking about “avoiding” or “reversing” climate change. We now are stuck with mitigating it. *sigh*

Thus the meeting at BCC, and the Berkshire node, and the climate-action pods that we are building here on earth instead of constructing one-way starships to other planets, a pastime so fashionable of late, but one that doesn’t save nuthin’ here on earth. Although, given the beastly hot temperature of the meeting hall at BCC where we were meeting to talk about nixing fossil fuels and supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy sources AND YET where no one could find anyone who had the power to turn down the damnable HEAT (ah, the irony), we might want to keep a hammer and some nails on hand. Because isn’t that the perfect example of how hard this stuff is? So many millions of buildings, so many billions of people, so many variables, so much to do, no one ever has the key to the thermostat box when you need it?

Nonetheless, we all got excited at the 350 Massachusetts pep rally, hunkered down in our break-out meetings eating crudités and hummus and cookies generously provided by…someone really nice… and a bunch of us, in the heat of the moment and being fairly light-headed from the sauna-like environment in the lecture hall, volunteered to do some stuff, as yet to be determined, to save the planet. Yeah. OK. Just point me in the right direction, Craig Altemose, Executive Director of the Better Future Project, who was the other featured speaker at the meeting, and who had a lot of great things to say and positive, inspiring energy with which to say them, which is more than I can say of myself right now, having sunk into a funk worrying about everything.

No matter! I will attempt to ease my chronic, gnawing, climate-catastrophe-induced stomachache by not eating food packaged in plastic. Another tall order in this world of ours. But never fear. I will ride my imaginary pony down to the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, fill up my mini burlap bags with local butter and eggs, organic almond flour, organic dates, organic free-trade bananas, exchange all the money in my wallet for those things, and go home to bake up some gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, pesticide-free, free trade, fun and friendly muffins to eat with my homemade organic yogurt made from milk that hath burst forth very recently from happy, healthy, local Berkshire moo-cows. Now you’re jealous. I’m sorry.

The homemade yogurt is damn sour but so full of healing probiotics it’ll curl your hair. I can always sweeten it with honey. From the poor doomed bees. Oh, right. The bees. Crap. Ouch. My stomach hurts.

And yet I have hope. Do you have hope? Will you join me on my Pollyanna Princess Cruise to the future, on the good ship Flip-Flop Lollipop, where we will sail joyfully amidst weightless herds of winged, white rhino angels under the glow of a charmed African sun? Oh please, do. And rein those beautiful, soon-to-be-extinct creatures down on a climate action meeting or two along the way. ‘Cause we need you.

Image

Photo credit: Swiss photographer John Wilhelm

 

Losers All

The losing lottery ticket curls in the drizzle,
its former hopeful, shiny dream reflecting back on itself in somber contemplation.
Hastily scratched with an unsteady hand,
whose nicotine-stained fingers faced failure in grasping the coin of conquest,
while trodding the muddy walk back from the corner market,
where airline shots of many colors glittered – again, hopefully –
with illusions of much grandeur,
and relief,
and escape.

There they lie now,
amongst the cigarette butts and dog shit.
All spent.
Every single, solitary, state-supplied nickel and dime,
scratched and sucked and suckled down the hatch of heedless need.
In the dark, you stumble back to the trailer,
the old man’s dog barks through the thin tin of his own wrecked life.
Inside, your weight crashes down on the stained mattress,
the TV tells you many things you believe,
and more you do not.

You fumble for a cigarette,
and count the days down to the dole that’s coming to you.
Oh, man, is it coming to you.
You’re owed that money,
For all you’ve done,
to make this world a better place,
by your very existence,
your very stinking existence.

Fuck them. Fuck them all.

You’re gonna win that god-damned lottery.
And then they can all go to hell.

Don’t Fear the Fire Ants

I’m in the habit of making semi-snide comments to my boyfriend about his iPhone/laptop addiction. Admittedly, this is not nice. Especially because, I’m a little bit addicted to my own digital crutches. (Yes, I know, you can’t be a little bit addicted… that’s like being a little bit fat.) I can’t even make dinner, garden, pluck a tick, or clean clumps of detritus out of my vacuum cleaner without first consulting the internet. Because the Internet knows everything. Everybody knows that.

Twitter. Are you there yet? I tried. My eyeballs are seeping fluids at the mere thought of the ubiquitous roll-call of tweets that infect nearly every page I visit, shooting holes in my serenity with their machine gun delivery – bam, bam, ba-bam bam BAM! Tinyurl actually exists. Have you thought about that one? Fills a need, sure, but wouldn’t it be a lot more fun if the majority of tweets didn’t exist only to direct you elsewhere? Like we need more virtual places to go!

Twenty years from now, our eyeballs will just fall out, just plain fall right out in protest, boing, boing, they’ll spring from our slack sockets on sinewy tethers like those trick glasses so popular among office-cube dwellers, except the red veins of fatigue will be oh, so real, and they won’t pop back in.

I was watching some documentary – yes, on one of the seven screens that dominate my life – and there were female human beings with bad, unkempt hair and brightly colored, aboriginal, robe-like clothing, sitting on the actual ground under a real, live tree of some kind, with broad leaves and graphic bark. I’d Google it, but (by the way, have you ever wondered how many verbs start with capital letters? NO, don’t you dare look it up, just don’t!) that would be just too hypocritical, because of all the afore-mentioned preaching I do about how we should strive to resist the knee-jerk, insta-knowledge, Pavlovian drool-bucket habit of Googling friggin’ everything within milliseconds of experiencing a knowledge gap anywhere near our increasingly feeble minds. As in, “Gee, I wonder what cow hooves are made of? I know, I’ll Google it!” Or your dinner mate says, “Yeah, it’s that movie with Susan Sarandon that starts with a ‘T’ and they drive off the cliff but I can’t think of the name…hey, let’s Google it!” Synapses are dying by the second every time we don’t bother trying to remember the name of that flower that grows by the side of the road.

So, under this real tree of which I know not the name and don’t care (wink, wink) these humans were shelling some kind of nuts or peas. (God help me not to look it up and please, Lord of the 21st Century, I beg you to help me learn to live with uncertainty, though my head implode with the strain.) They were just sitting around shelling these edible items with their fingers. Sitting in a circle, a bunch of women sitting directly on the earth’s surface without benefit of ergonomic chairs, swivel chairs, lounge chairs, gym balls, or, for that matter, walls, wall coverings, rugs, LED lighting, flats screens, mouse pads, infernal tangles of wires, drawers full of broken ear buds and headsets and obsolete phone chargers, paper clip dispensers, wrinkle cream, RSS feeds, or 5-hour energy drinks. OK, maybe they had a gourd filled with tepid water teeming with bacteria and a fried plantain wrapped in a leaf, but nary a Lazy Susan or wine caddy in sight.

My mind mini-convulses every time I think of living in such simplicity. But in a good way.

Air. Water. Tree. Gourd. Hand-woven basket. Hand-woven shawl. Mysterious vegetable item that shall go unnamed, consisting of a casing and the vegetable itself inside the casing, apparently suitable for eating. Shell goes here, vegetable goes in the basket. Boom, dinner. Sun above, earth below, fingers move, mind free and easy. Singing a song together, exhibiting sisterhood. Bathe in the river. Laugh at the goats. Walk back to your shelter. Nurse the baby. Know every face you see.

Sounds good, right. I wonder if they’d accept me into their tribe. And if so, how long it would take before I went stark-raving mad from shelling vegetables all day, and how soon that neck thing would kick in to leave me writhing in agony on the hard, barren earth. And if I sat on a nest of fire ants, would I have an allergic reaction and die of anaphylactic shock? Can fire ants give you an allergic reaction that could lead to anaphylactic shock?

Image

Photo credit: Alex Wild

Hang on a minute, I just need to…. Nooooooooo!

My Plastic Challenge to You: Stay Sane

So, it’s not a plastic challenge, as in a challenge that isn’t real. No, no. The plastic is very real, and so is the challenge. Funny, though, that the word “plastic” is used to describe things that aren’t real. Because it’s a fake-feeling creation. In the eyes of 20th century humans who started out the century mostly using things that were actually made from.. well.. real stuff, like wood, stone, clay, and natural fibers, plastic was a new-fangled, science-y substance that represented modernity (although plastic seems to have been “created” in the mid-1800s, following on the heels of rubber). The Free Dictionary online describes plastic in entry #9 as “marked by artificiality or superficiality; synthetic” and gives an example of “a plastic world of fad, hype, and sensation.” Used to be, it was a new sensation, a good sensation, even. How the tides have turned! Plastic is now the thing most things are made of, and if you look around you, you will be shocked and, hopefully, appalled at how much of your life has become about plastic. Double-meaning taken, to include credit cards, and the buying power of credit cards to purchase all this junk – and, to be fair – all the great stuff made of plastic. Great, life-saving devices, fun things, useful things, slinky and sexy and shimmery things. All that stuff. However, it’s out of control. Our consumption generally, yes, but moreover our consumption of things made of plastic that we could, frankly, do without.

Doing without is not what most Americans – and increasingly, the people in all those parts of the world who crave and mimic our disposable lifestyle – it’s not what we do best.  Pollute? Hey, we’ve got that down. But I want desperately to be a person more in solution mode than a person in problem-exacerbation mode, so this week, starting today, I’m taking The Plastic Challenge.

Check it out here: http://myplasticfreelife.com/showyourplastic/

I do love a challenge, and I have recently refreshed my knowledge of the horrors of plastic pollution. If you want a real shocking look at the end result of our plastic consumption (and who wouldn’t?!), check out this website: http://5gyres.org/

I was inspired by my friend Michele’s post of the TedxDelft video (not a real “TED Talk” but an independently organized TED event) of Boyan Slat, an aerospace engineering student at the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. (Thanks, Michele) He’s a cute guy (I know, is that really relevant?) who obviously possesses brains, talent, and passion, but apparently his invention, in it’s current design, wouldn’t stand a chance against the real-life challenges of cleaning plastic debris out of the world’s oceans – a project on the scale of… no other project on earth. But he is, at least, working on it, however new to the game he may be. Leading scientists and experts have dedicated themselves to the massive problem of plastic pollution collecting in astronomical quantities in the five great ocean gyres (large systems of rotating ocean currents), and have found it daunting, to say the least. As we know, plastic lasts “forever”, and although plastic is eventually “broken down” into smaller pieces in the ocean, that isn’t actually a good thing. In fact, it contributes to a larger problem. As the larger pieces are broken down by sun and sea into tiny bits – smaller and smaller as the environment works on them, until they are as small as the microorganisms that surround them – tragically, they enter the marine food chain at every level, and therefore enter bodies of our planet’s precious marine life along the way and eventually kill them – if the creatures haven’t already been killed outright by becoming tangled in and/or choked by the vast web of plastic infiltrating every square mile of what we used to think of as the unfathomable, infinite and ever-self-cleansing ocean.

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Photo credit: Mindfully.org. Bottle caps and other plastic objects found inside the decomposed carcass of a Laysan albatross on Kure Atoll, which lies in a remote and virtually uninhabited region of the North Pacific.

Unfathomable no more. The plastic pollution problem in our oceans is real, it has been measured (to the degree possible, given the scale of the task), and is sickening to contemplate. But the worst part – or the most maddening aspect of the problem, anyway – is that so much of the plastic currently trashing our oceans came from such frivolous sources!

The other day, I watched a checkout clerk put a large, plastic laundry detergent bottle – the ones with the huge, super-convenient handles – into a plastic bag for a customer. She did it mindlessly, with no thought for the future. La, la, la – like that. The customer – a strong, healthy young woman – just grabbed the bag that now held the already-designed-to-be-portable detergent bottle and placed it in her cart with the 15 or so other plastic bagfuls of double-, triple-, and quadruple-wrapped products we buy every day with the casual air of someone having no idea what they were doing to the planet. I, on the other hand, felt such a rush of insane, suffocating anger rise up from the depths of my tortured soul to the top of my head that I truly expected my head to explode on the spot, spewing brain bits all over the plastic-pushing grocery clerk and the plastic-toting customer. Serves ’em right! you might be thinking. Or perhaps not. Perhaps you are thinking, wow, what a nut-job!

It’s true. I’m becoming so obsessed with the environmental problems facing us now that I’m liable to lose my composure at any minute. Because it’s all real.

The poor customer, though I intuitively disliked her for her flouncy hair and happy-go-lucky air, seemed nice enough. Just a regular person, doing some grocery shopping on her way home from work. Boy, was she wrong!

Rather than leave my purchases on the belt and run out of the store screaming obscenities and ripping chunks of hair and scalp out with my bare hands, like I wanted to, I politely smiled at the grocery clerk and said (rather sweetly, I think), “Do you really need to put that in a bag? It’s already got a handle.” Well. If you want to piss people off, try making a remark like that at your neighborhood grocery store. The clerk looked at me like I was a very unattractive, slimy and possibly diseased bug that had just landed from Mars, and then , as if she saw such bugs every day, she just shrugged. She obviously didn’t have the energy to deal with me. The shopper, on the other hand, threw a withering look over her shoulder that left nothing to the imagination. I interpreted it as a combination of “Mind your own %$#@ing business, bi-otch!” and “What kind of freak are you?”

At these moments, I try to remind myself that life is not a popularity contest. But I’m human. I want people to like me. It does make me uncomfortable questioning the status quo like this. I am basically a nice, shy sort of person who forces herself to get out there in the world and interact with fellow humans in fun, productive, and loving ways. However, my growing rage at the casual attitude we all (or most of us) have towards abusing our lovely, precious planet (the one my beloved son is inheriting) and its innocent creatures is propelling me headlong into the kind of antisocial behavior that gets you uninvited to parties. I hope I will have the strength to further alienate myself in my small community going forward.

ImagePhoto Credit: Oceans Rock!

Only 5% of plastic waste is recycled.* So it’s up to us to cut down on consuming plastic items and stop accepting plastic packaging and once-used, unnecessary carrying bags. To see a grown man accept a flimsy plastic bag to carry two lemons in is the stuff that makes me want to either cry, right there in the checkout line, or get on my knees and hold onto his pant’s leg begging him to give back the bag. (But that begs the question: shouldn’t a man be proud to put two lemons in his pant’s pockets and stride out of the store?)

I know I can’t be doing that kind of crazy shit in the local grocery store. I have to make a living in this town. But we’re our only hope. Overworked, stressed out, earnest citizens who have a lot of other things they’d rather be doing, but in fact have nothing more important to do than dedicate themselves to reversing the destruction, one shopping trip, one takeout dinner at a time.

So… I’m taking The Plastic Challenge and collecting all the plastic garbage I produce in one week and taking pictures of it and filling out the form. I actually think it will be fun, in a twisted sort of way. Then I’ll recycle what can be recycled, and toss the rest of it on top of the plastic graveyard I have in my garage that is growing at a disconcerting rate. Plastic hoarding is unmanageable, in the long run. Already there’s no room left for the car. Ideally, the day will come when there will be a place I can bring it for recycling. So I wait. Because knowing my plastic garbage could end up in the belly of a whale or wrapped around some poor seal’s neck is just unconscionable to me.

That’s the thing about knowing stuff. You can’t un-know it. And then you have to take action or go mad.

Wanna join me? Taking action, I mean, not going mad!

*5 Gyres Institute. “What is the problem? Plastics: designed to last forever, made to throw away.” Online at http://5gyres.org/what_is_the_issue/the_problem/

The Big “D”

I received some alarming news last week that shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. I now officially have diabetes. It’s not the horrible kind that my dad had, involving finger pricks and needles and little bottles of insulin in the refrigerator, and unbelievable stress and uncertainty and fear and highs and lows that put my family into a tailspin multiple times daily. The nights my father didn’t get off the train from New York, those were scary times, sitting in the passenger seat of our VW Bug watching my mother lose it. Because sometimes, the occasional conductor who didn’t know my dad personally took him for drunk and threw him off the train at some stop up the line.

For the 48 years that my parents were married and my dad had diabetes (they had one, light-hearted year together before he was drafted and went off to boot camp during World War II, returning a year later to her doorstep, near death and unrecognizable at 85 pounds due to undiagnosed diabetes), my mother never slept through the night. She slept with some part of her senses attuned to the heat or the clamminess of her husband’s body.  Should she have been particularly tired and drifted into a deep sleep, the wetness of the sheets would awaken her in a panic. Dad’s sugar gone mad again, resulting in a race to the kitchen for grapefruit juice and the sugar bowl. If he wasn’t too far gone, she could get him to drink the sickly-sweet drink; if he appeared drunk and had shifted into belligerence, she’d be forced to take on a stern tone that would soon shift into panic, when she’d have to yell at him, “Drink it! Please, drink it!”  If that didn’t work, she’d have to resort to the tube of glucose, which she’d force into the side of his mouth because he had fallen into semi-unconsciousness. True, I didn’t witness the vast majority of nighttime dramas, but I was party to plenty of the daytime variety, and I wondered at their acceptance of their situation. I was often awe-struck and confused by the way they would, post-catastrophe, both return to the mundane tasks of life as if nothing were amiss, he heading off to work on the train (the train! alone!) every single working day and sometimes on Saturday, and she humming as she ironed the curtains. This was the hand they were dealt, and they played it admirably and with great love for each other.

My diabetes diagnosis is almost laughable compared to that nightmare, but I can’t deny that the vivid memories of the intensity and seriousness of my dad’s disease and his final days in kidney failure are looming large in my mind right now. True, he had a particularly “brittle” and unmanageable version of the disease, with many hospital stays, some nearly a year in length, back before diabetes was well understood. But nevertheless. Insulin injections could be in my future, too, if I don’t get things in hand.

Image“Getting things in hand” couldn’t be less appealing to me. I know I’m a big baby, but when I’m feeling down (which happens more often that I’d like to admit) or just plain bored, I like to get down with a muffin. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or a Kit Kat bar. Or a Peppermint Pattie, or Milano’s, or Ginger O’s, or Jelly Bellies, or…. Trust me: when you are intimately familiar with the brand names of all this stuff, it’s not a good sign. However, it’s a weakness I joke about and will admit heartily to anyone within hearing distance: I’m a sugar addict. Hee, haw, haw. Or at least, I was. (I refuse to acknowledge what I know to be true: once an addict, always an addict.)

I should be 300 pounds. Luckily, I have been blessed with a hyper metabolism. But I’m still 20 pounds overweight, and it’s all “middle fat,” the worst kind. Yay. Middle fat. Sounds so healthy, doesn’t it? And so attractive!

But the “d” diagnosis hit me hard, so I quit shoving cookies into my mouth the very same day. It’s been a week, and eating for nutrition is quite the concept. I’ve dropped five pounds (the easy ones) and I feel great. Even before the sun had set on “d” day, I felt better. Lighter! Less full! Ready to rock and roll!

But eating just to stay alive is some boring. I know, I know – there’s ample opportunity to prepare exciting meals and eat great food without muffins! I’m just a spoiled rotten American with nothing but bounty surrounding me and I don’t appreciate it. WTF is wrong with me? And I can get creative with recipes now! (Woo hoo – I’m practically lightheaded with the possibilities – or is that hypoglycemia?) But honestly, the “d” diet I need to be on is just a regular-old healthy eating plan: real food, in a variety of colors, whole grains, balanced meals, you know the drill. There’s room for the occasional cookie, and lots of other great stuff. But that’s not what I’ve been about for all these years. I’ve been about sedating myself with food. Substituting food for all the other stuff I had to give up. How am I supposed to do that now? Huh? Yoga? Meditation? Walking? Swimming? Chin-ups? Probably all good ideas. But those things take effort. Cracking open a new package of cookies? Not so much.

I’ve been here before. The high blood pressure diagnosis, for instance. That got me counting calories and paying attention. For awhile. I lost 15 pounds, which I gained back over a couple of years, and then packed on a few bonus pounds, just because I could. I haven’t yet surpassed my highest pregnancy weight, but that previously impressive number just doesn’t seem as alarming as it used to. That can’t be good!

kale

A couple of years ago, I had the pre-pre-warning: the doctor told me my sugar was “a little high.” So I thought about that for the entire drive home, and then promptly forgot about it. Last year, I graduated to “pre-diabetic.” OK. So we’re moving in the wrong direction. Whoa. Better deal with that. I have to say, in all honesty, I didn’t just ignore that news, I reveled in rebelling against it. Some part of myself reacted by not just maintaining the status quo, but by upping the ante. I treated it the way I’ve treated other serious news in my past. I just said “’f’-it.” I mean, how mature is that? I nodded a few times while the doctor droned on with helpful instructions, blinked a few times on the way out the door to shift gears and clear my head, and spent the last year saying “’f’-you” to my body. Nice one.

Makes a person think. What’s it all about? “Emotional eating” doesn’t begin to tell the sordid tale of the origins of this problem. Stress, worry, regrets, working too hard, too busy, overextended, under-enthused, middle-aged (that’s being generous), more or less sedentary, it’s the same old story. But not a road I want to keep chewing my way down.

Counting carbs and all that, it’s kinda fun for a few days. It’s not like I don’t know what I should be eating. I can do it. The fear comes in when I wonder if it will stick. Or will my Teflon surface propel me along that slippery slope to the bakery aisle?

What’s amazing is that I do feel a huge sense of relief after just one week of not feeding the beast. Breaking the cycle, even for a short time, going cold turkey, it shuts down the addictive cravings, and in surprisingly short order. Now if I can just shut down my mind, and stop questioning whether I can do this. I can.

Or at least, I’m going to try real hard this time. Because the “Big D” isn’t diabetes. It’s the inevitable end. And though it can’t be avoided, I’d rather not hasten its arrival with a fatal case of the “’f’-its.”

The Teacher is IN!

When you ask a person, “What type of wedding do you want to have?” the married-person-to-be will often respond by telling you what kind of wedding they don’t want to have. “We definitely don’t want to get married in Las Vegas!” As if you’d implied they did! Same with “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What kind of patio furniture do you like?” Although instructive in a roundabout sort of way, knowing that a person doesn’t want to be a ballet dancer or a marketing executive, or doesn’t want a bamboo or metal or cedar patio set tainting their deck doesn’t really tell you what they do want.

When it comes to email spam, right off, I think I know what most people want: none. Not any of it at all. My research results are derived from real-world trials of listening to people complain about spam. “I keep getting all these SPAM messages!” is one example. “How can I stop getting so many SPAM messages?!” is another.

Um… I don’t know?

But since we apparently must have spam email – because spam filters fail miserably and spammers won’t go away – then maybe we should just go ahead and work to improve the quality of spam writing. Because, to be honest, it almost always sucks real bad. I’m not talking about unwanted advertising from regular companies who at least pretend to harken from the planet earth; I’m talking about that bizarre variety of spam that is sent by mysterious people of fake royal descent or ESQs or CAPTs or other evil, lazy-ass freaks  who not only refuse to work a day in their lives, but also prey on innocent souls (who will do anything to get their mitts on some free millions of USDs) and who WORST OF ALL send missives that are poorly written, boring and stupid. If you’re going to try to scam me, can you at least be entertaining? I know Americans will watch anything on TV rather than crack a book, but give us some credit. We know fake ESQs when we see them. So I’m here to help.

Spam Writing 101

The first thing you need to know when writing this stuff is that the term “spam” originates from a Monty Python sketch in which Spam (the funky meat) is featured. It’s pretty funny, so please check it out before you type another word. But don’t forget to return! Disclaimer: If you are one of the seemingly thousands (millions?) of foreigners writing spam from bizarro-land, you might not understand the subtle British humor of this skit, but give it a try! It’s well worth it. And also, Wikipedia, the go-to source of all knowledge, has confirmed the origin of the term “spam” with the full backing of Merriam-Webster behind them. So doubt no more!

Now let us get to the meat of the lesson, so to speak. First, the syllabus for Spam Writing 101:

  1. Don’t be stupid.
  2. Don’t address me as “Dear.”
  3. Don’t mention millions of dollars, or trunks, or me doing anything “on your behalf.”

(You’ll notice the syllabus is a great example of the aforementioned technique of delineating things I don’t want… See paragraph 1.)

Great. Let’s begin.

  1. Don’t be stupid.

Let me elucidate by dissecting an actual spam email I received today:Capt Perry

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am sorry to encroach into your privacy in this manner, I found you listed in the Trade Center Chambers of Commerce directory here in Iraq,I find it pleasurable to offer you my partnership in business.I only pray at this time that your address is still valid. I want to solicit your attention to receive money on my behalf.

  • Now, right off the bat, the writer crossed an invisible line of etiquette with the “Dear.” Not in his dreams.
  • A person doesn’t encroach into my privacy, they encroach on my privacy. They better not be encroaching into anything, if you know what I’m sayin’!
  • I think I’d know if I’m listed in the Trade Center Chambers of Commerce directory in Iraq, or in any other war-torn country. The writer should have given it some thought: what are the odds that I am listed there?
  • Pleasurable? Really?
  • “I only pray…” This is a turn-off to Christians, Muslims, Atheists or whatevers. Most people, even if prone to prayer, don’t pray about valid addresses.

So the writer is not off to a good start here, giving their potential victim several reasons to grow suspicious. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the email:

I am CAPT PERRY MICHEAL, an officer in the US Army, and also a West Point Graduate presently serving in the Military with the 82nd Air Borne Division Peace keeping force in Baghdad, Iraq.

The spelling of “Micheal” may indicate that the writer might be stupid, thereby breaking Rule #1 (above). But “Michael” is not the only way to spell “MIchael”, as we all know, and as was pointed out by these sharp contributors to the Urban Dictionary:

MICHAEL               MICHEAL

Micheal is truly the man’s man. A truly well rounded individual capable of drinking large amount of alcohol, loving women roughly(and tenderly), know massive amounts of knowledge, and is talents at many, many things.

Just so’s you don’t doubt it, here’s more:

Micheal’s do have beautiful strong bodies that will make the girls melt. They are best matched up to Jennifer’s or Amanda’s.

“Micheal’s” demystified at last!

But it gets better! Compare those gems to the following responses received by a frustrated “Michael” who sought the advice of random visitors to “Ask Metafilter”  (whatever that is) when he asked, “Why does everyone spell Michael wrong?” Am I just deluded and the ‘micheal’ spelling is more common than I think, or do people just not know how to spell?

Good question, Micheal. Too bad the world is heavily populated by dimwits, and they hang out at sites like Ask Metafilter. Because here are some of the answers you got:

I am just hazarding a guess here, but I bet it’s because the diphthong “ea” is a lot more common than “ae” in English, and it’s force of habit. [Hazard away, by all means.]diphthong

…it’s just more natural to write “ea” than “ae.” My husband’s name is Michael, and when we were first dating I had to consciously spell it out. [Wow. That must have been hard for you.]

and it’s not a diphthong, I’m an idiot, I just mean vowel combinations. [No you’re NOT!]

“ae” is a pretty low-frequency bigram, compared with “ea”; the stark contrast is probably enough to kick in for “Micheal” if you haven’t learned the proper spelling dead-rote. [Stark contrast? Dead-rote? Am I missing something?]

The interesting thing is that you wouldn’t normally misspell a word pronounced that way as “Micheal” since it’s not an eee sound. But because people “know” there’s an ‘a’ in there, they include it. [All’s I “know” is, I’m fascinated by this explanation!]

A lot of people don’t know how to spell anything correctly, much less the word Michael. It’s not just your name. [Right on, sister!]

Checking google, which is a bad but easy method, there are 265 million hits for “ea”, as against 152 million for “ae”. Searching pages in English only, it’s 62 million pages for “ea”, 38.5 million pages for “ae”. [That’s a relief. But let’s hear it for “bad but easy” methods!]

People don’t often misspell Michael with just a single vowel in the second vowel spot, though – right? (eg you don’t see “Michel” a lot) So they know there are two, and they know which ones, they just can’t remember which order they go in. [And who can blame them?]

Generally, English spellers have a lot of trouble with all of the two-vowel combinations, though. “Weird” is often misspelled, for example.

Those pesky English spellers. They are weird, for sure! But the winner is:

It’s a weird-ass vowel combo, like everyone else said. I can’t spell it without actually saying (if only in my inner voice) “mai … kay … ehl”, and it’s my middle name. Which, granted, I don’t use all that often, but imagine how little someone who doesn’t even have it as a middle name runs into it.

Imagine! Let’s all count our blessings that we don’t run into “Michaels” more often (shudder!).

However, look at the time! I digress on the stupidity of urban and other Americans. We’re supposed to be focusing on the stupidity of foreign spam writers… let’s get back to our email:

I am on the move to Afghanistan from Iraq as the last batch just left,and i really need your help in assisting me with the safe keeping of two military trunk boxes which has just arrived the United Kingdom from the Iraq. I hope you can be trusted? Kindly view for your records: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7444083.stmvintage_military_navy_chest_named_soldier_attica_ny_foot_locker_trunk_wood_box_1_thumb2_lgwvintage_military_navy_chest_named_soldier_attica_ny_foot_locker_trunk_wood_box_1_thumb2_lgw

  • Oh, wow! You’re on the move! And part of a batch of something!
  • “Boxes” means more than one = plural.
  • I hope you can be trusted, too?

I have to say, the BBC link is what convinced me 100% that this person was legit. Because the BBC is like the God or Goddess of trusted information. So sign me up! I would normally never click a link in a spam email (spoiler alert, Spammers!), but since it was the BBC’s website, I did, and lo and behold, it proved everything:

BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions[!]  [emphasis added]

So, of course, I will now do whatever this person tells me to, even though the article was dated 10 June 2008 and it’s now 2013. Whatever. I’m sure those billions are still lost, except for the ones the writer has squirreled away in two trunk boxes which HAS just arrived in the UK! Too bad I live in Massachusetts, otherwise I could drive right over.

If you can be trusted , I will explain further when i get a response from you. Nevertheless, reconfirm the following to me as follows and contact me immediately on my private email: captperrymichael1@hotmail.com

1.Name:

2.Address:

3.Telephone:

4.Copy of drivers license:

God Bless America. CAPT PERRY MICHEAL, USA Army

I’m so ready to reconfirm the following as follows to CAPT PERRY from the USA Army! He has certainly won me over with his reassuring slogans! All I have to do is fill in the blanks and I’m rich, rich, rich!!

Let’s review:

  • Billions were lost in 2008.
  • The writer attended West Point, but now is “on the move.”
  • The Trade Center Chambers of Commerce directory is basically his bible.
  • He has some money in a couple of trunk boxes that he just sent to the UK.
  • He needs me to drive from Massachusetts to the UK, but only if I can be trusted.
  • He will explain further, although, God knows, he’s been more than clear.
  • He should think about dating someone named Jennifer or Amanda.
  • He secretly wishes to encroach into their privacy!

Well, that about wraps it up for today. I hope you have learned something.

My mom used to serve Spam on toast with mayonnaise, and although I know it’s supposed to be gross, I kind of remember liking it. Maybe I can’t be trusted after all!

Blue Rider Stables Kicks Up Its Heels!

On Saturday, I went to the Blue Rider Stables 19th Annual “Carry On” Circus. The day was hot, topping out at 87 degrees, but despite the heat, a good crowd came out to cheer on the equine and human participants.

The first half of the show featured a western drill, a pairs and trios number, a vaulting act, and a jumping exhibition that was, at a few crucial moments, affected by the bobbing umbrellas of festival goers seeking to escape the brutal sun by creating their own little patch of shade. (I’m guilty as charged.) The horses were performing beautifully despite the dripping hot weather and the unfamiliar crowds of people, but bobbing umbrellas proved to be the last straw for one of the horses, who detoured around the jump at the last second, or in one instance, came to a screeching halt and dumped its rider over the poles and into the dirt. All in a days work with horses, I suppose. Maxing out the cuteness quotient in the first half was an act called “Mr. Sun,” an adorable parade of tiny riders on their very docile steeds, including the tiniest tot of the lot atop “Twist,” the largest horse in the Blue Rider herd, a very large work horse with a golden mane who is a favorite of riders of all sizes and abilities.

Twist by RLHB 2006

Twist by RLHB 2006

I was amazed at the fact that most of the young people in the show rode bare back – not the easiest way to ride a horse by any stretch of the imagination. But the easy-going nature of the horses (I’m guessing) and the close relationships between horse and rider were underscored by the lack of saddles. Plus, the kids were obviously receiving excellent training in horsemanship. A good reason to support them.

The stars of the second show were without doubt the riders who are regular participants in Blue Rider’s therapeutic program for people with diagnosed issues. They performed dressage, a comb drill, vaulting, crossovers, and a wheel drill. The grand finale brought out all the horses and people performers to line up for their well-earned applause. A great day was had by all. Great MC’ing by Jeanne Bassis! Plus, I got a great Blue Rider Stables hat that is my new fave.

Blue Rider Stables is well known in the Berkshires as the provider of therapeutic riding, training in horsemanship, and body-work work focused on body awareness and inner balance. Not to forget, it is also a home for horses and a few adorable donkeys that would no longer be with us if Blue Rider hadn’t rescued them. All of what they do over at Blue Rider is based on the simple but fundamental belief that equines are known to be healers of body, mind, and spirit. Just looking at them, standing there in the “ring” doing what is asked of them without a lot of hoopla is enough to shift your thinking for a day. Working closely with horses, well, that brings you right up to the well of deeper happiness for a big drink. Not that anyone can make you actually drink from the well of happiness… even though someone might bring you right up to it, right there, where you could drink from it. Just sayin’, yo!

Happy Riders with Christine Sireau, Director

Happy Riders with Christine Sireau, Director

The Rider peeps sum it up like this: “There are many documented benefits of riding, or equine activities, but the most important one here at Blue Rider is the benefit of the relationships formed when two beings meet to do something together.”

So cool. They believe hanging out with another being, doing something, is a real thing. Any organization that gets behind that kind of cross-species positive-relationship-building is one I fully endorse.

The organization is named after “Der Blaue Reiter” Expressionist art movement that took place in Germany in the early 1900’s. Based on a fundamental desire to share spiritual truths through their art, the principle founders of the movement included Wassily Kadinsky, Franz Marc, and August Macke. Kandinsky and Marc shared a love of horses and riders, respectively, and Kandinsky associated the color blue with spirituality and eternity.

Cilla, photo by Reba.

Cilla, photo by Reba.

Founded in 1991, Blue Rider is a non-profit organization dedicated to “creating positive opportunities through holistic horseback riding.” They strive to support the growth and progress of each individual student while being mindful of a “safety first” principle for riders and horses.

The founder of Blue Rider Stables, Charles Carlson III (Chip), a painter, photographer and life artist, wished the stables to reflect the idealism of Der Blaue Reiter, and I believe it does. In my brief encounters with the program at Blue Rider Stables, I have been moved by the respectful way in which horses and humans interact, the knowledge and dedication of the organization’s Executive Director, Christine Sierau, and its Board of Directors, and volunteers. After horsing around (ha) with the idea of volunteering for Blue Rider, I’m about to finally get my ass (ha ha) in the saddle and help with their annual auction this summer, and maybe get closer to the animals by mucking out some manure.

My horsewoman experiences have not been overly impressive, but they’ve been meaningful to me. Horses do seem to have some kind of ancient wisdom behind those big, beautiful, long-lashed eyes. And they are poster-critters for the kind of patience a hyper girl from New Jersey would do well to study up on.

It seems horsing around is on my cosmic agenda lately. I consider myself very fortunate to have recently been introduced to the work of Bill Dorrance, a life-long rancher and horseman who died in 1999 and who had an amazing and humane approach to working with horses through “feel,” and to learn of Leslie Desmond and her work with horses, and the book she wrote with Bill Dorrance, “True Horsemanship Through Feel.” The approach at Blue Rider Stables seems to me to resonate with the same philosophy inherent in Dorrance’s and Desmond’s work: horses are precious, devoted and loyal, and are worthy of our love and respect. I surely believe that, and would like to learn more about it all.

Shoveling manure seems like a good way to start.