Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rally For Sanity was fun and inspiring

I completely enjoyed today's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear from the comfort of my home. It was an amazing experience to see rationality celebrated and fear defeated. Also, the music and humor was good.

Stewart's final speech is worth reading carefully

“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema.

And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it--impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."

See Funniest Rally Signs

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lauren Valle's Heroic Letter

If you're in the mood for good news, you'll enjoy the letter from Lauren Valle, the girl who got stomped by Ron Paul supporters, to one of the criminals who was demanding an apology from her.

(Pause for a moment to consider what your response would be to such a demand; I know that mine would have been nothing like the following:)
"Mr. Profitt, You have asked that I apologize to you. Perhaps this is not the apology that you are looking for, but I do have some things to say.
I have been called a progressive, a liberal, a professional agitator. You have been called a conservative, a Republican, a member of the Tea Party movement.

Fundamentally and most importantly, you and I are both human beings. We are also both American citizens. These two facts, to me, are far more meaningful than the multitude of labels that we carry. And if these two facts are true then it means we are on the same team.

I have not been for one moment angry with you and your actions. Instead I feel thoroughly devastated. It is evident that your physical assault on me is symptomatic of the crisis that this country is struggling through. And it seems that I will heal from my injuries long before this country can work through our separation.

Only when we decide let go of our hate, our violence and our aggression will we be able to communicate to each other about the issues that divide us. Right now, we are not communicating, we are stomping on each other. No one can ever win, no one can ever be heard, with violence.

You and I, as fellow citizens, and we, as a country, have a choice. Either we choose to continue the cycle of inflicting violence upon each other, screaming at each other, insulting each other and putting one another down or we and find a way to sit down and start listening to each other. We'll see how far we get.

We are all viciously and vociferously feeding a fire that will only burn us down together. We must reach inside ourselves and make space for each other. We must forgive each other. We must believe in our capacity for transformation. The moment we choose compassion and reconciliation is the moment that we will begin to move toward freedom. There is no other way.

I believe that you should be held accountable for your actions but I also recognize the incredibly negative impact that the consequences must be having on your life, and I wish you all the best as you yourself heal from this.

Violence hurts everyone."

Source: Huffington Post.
This letter makes me proud to be an American (although somewhat humbled for not having such greatness of spirit. There's always room to improve!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Patching Roof

A little dampness got through to the ceiling during a recent storm, so I went up on the roof today for a little patching.
The repair itself was pretty straightforward. Any seam in the shingling that looked even slightly suspicious got a thick layer of patching compound. This patch stuff is like thick, presumably toxic black pudding, put on with a trowel. It's not very smelly but I'm storing the can of leftovers in the outside locker just in case.
I was unsure about going up the ladder at first, but with the mother-in-law holding on to the bottom step, it was actually quite stable. Of course, I made sure that she wasn't mad at me about anything first ;-)
This ladder is my first new one. I've never had to go ladder shopping before, and I nearly went with the most economical option, but noticed that it was rated to only 200 pounds. It seems adequate for me but I haven't been 200 pounds for decades. I'd feel pretty foolish if anything happened just because I wanted to save a little money - even if someone other than myself would be at fault, still the use of an insufficient ladder would've struck against me.
Instead I got slightly more ladder than I needed. I noticed immediately that it felt much more solid than the cheap one. When I was up in the air with nothing but that ladder to keep me there, the extra cost was worthwhile for peace of mind alone! I now have a New Rule: Any equipment that keeps you from being dead, don't go with the cheapest option!
I enjoyed the different view of our neighborhood. There's nothing profound to say about that, except that  looking at houses in terms of their roofs, instead of their streetfronts, if like looking at our friends in terms of their hats, instead of their faces.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Economic Rights as the Cornerstone for Building World Peace Through Law

Section Chair Marti Schmidt

Professor Joel Ngugi
"Economic Rights as the Cornerstone& for Building World Peace Through Law: Free Trade Regimes and Human Rights" was the lunchtime lecture today, put on by the WSBA's World Peace through Law Section,meeting at the Rainier Square Conference Center in Seattle, featuring Professor Joel Ngugi of the UW Law School.

In this time of economic recession, including high joblessness and loss of housing, his discussion the relationship between economic rights and building world peace through law seemed pretty on point.

Prior to joining UW, Professor Ngugi practiced law with the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag, LLP, as a corporate and international litigation associate. He also practiced law with the Kenyan firm Kariuki Muigua & Company Advocates. Professor Ngugi has worked with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and conducted research work for the Global Coalition for Africa/World Bank, Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University and at the Global Trade Watch Division of the Public Citizens, Inc. in Washington, DC. Adding soon to his body of over a dozen professional publications are two forthcoming works: The Curse of Ecological Interdependence: Africa, Climate Change, and Social Justice (in GLOBAL WARMING READER) and Making the Link Between Human Rights and Corruption: Promises and Peril (Proceedings of 2010 ASIL ANNUAL CONFERENCE).

Rand Paul supporter stomps head of counterprotestor

Rand Paul supporter stomps head of an political opponent
"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever." - George Orwell.

The difference: Orwell was AGAINST it!


What happened is that there was a PUBLIC event in Kentucky: a debate between two Senatorial candidates. In the video, Rand Paul gets out of his limosine and, behind him, a group of his supporters beats up a woman who's holding a sign they don't like.

At the end of the clip, the crowd chants "Rand Paul! Ra-a-a-nd Paul!" obviously pleased that they beat up a defenseless person who was only asserting a 1st amendment right. When the test came, the crowd abandoned the Constitution.

More info:

Back Of The Envelope Planner

Among the great little tips in "Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better" is the hip-pocket planner, and oddly enough, it can be combined with this week's Change the Work Wednesday challenge"write a post on ... ways in which you save paper."
back of envelope planner and book
The back-of-the-envelope
hippocket planner
can be an easy life hack.
Why write down a daily plan every morning? It's not that I necessarily follow the plan, but the act of planning  helps me prioritize, and physically carrying around a copy of the plan keeps me focussed. Modern life offers too many distractions that, without a physical object reminding me of what I want to do (freely chosen by myself!), I would too often end the day having done nothing that I really wanted.
The problem is what sort of reminder-token to carry about. I've tried all sorts of paper-based planners, from the elaborate Daily Timer(tm) to the humble stapleback freebie given away on holidays. They all work - sort of - and they none of them work - really. The big ones don't fit in a pocket and therefore aren't around when I need them to keep me focussed; the little staplebacks have the defect of carrying around old plans from early in the year.
Electronic planners also work too - sort of - when my tasks depend on relating with other people or institutions, it's good to have the discipline of entering it into google calendar or whatever. However, much of my work is less structured and more independent, and at the moment, it's just seems silly access a keyboard to record "do laundry" or "blog this". There may also be some psychological factors at play. My mobile device doesn't present itself to me primarily as a planner; I think of it as a cellphone/internet access device, so it doesn't serve well as a reminder of what I chose to do today.
Lifehacker suggests using a hippocket planner - something sized to fit the pocket in the back of your pants. Using a spreadsheet, I easily designed hip-pocket sized planning sheets, paperclipped them together, and discovered that they worked well. I always had them with me when I needed them ... tip: when I don't have my pants on, I'm usually not interested in planning ...
...and the size was just right for about a day of work. At the start of the next day, I review and recycle yesterday's plan, thus carrying around only what I need (anything permanent, like new phone numbers, go into google contacts for access via cellphone).
However, the act of specially printing out planning sheets is inefficient, since it relies on using paper that hasn't been previously used. In addition, the actual sheet design didn't add much to the functionality so it's a bit of a waste of toner.
The humble standard-sized envelope, when folded in half, typically bears a hip-pocket-sized area of blankness perfectly adequate for one day's planning. This serves several purposes. It gives the envelope a second use, thus saving paper. The thing is just as recylceable after being reused as before. And: it costs me nothing!
It would be better not to get the envelope in the first place, but I still get a lot of formal notices in the mail, so I might as well put them to use.
I've also found that, if I'm out of envelopes, an 8x11 sheet of paper folded in quarters will suffice. I go to a lot of meetings at which agendas and minutes are still printed out; these provide me with plenty of paper for planning purposes.

That's it for today - nothing really sophisticated - in fact, this is a step backwards in time, to "back-of-the-envelope" methods. Sometimes an old way works fine!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Imagine ALL American Citizens Voting....

... what a wonderful thing that would be!

I voted by mail. It's so convenient and eliminates the problem of something coming up on Election Day.

My friends, there are NO excuses. In a democracy, where we the people rule ourselves, voting is not a privilege; it's a DUTY.

I voted. Now you vote too!
Some get-out-the-vote resources: