Saturday, November 26, 2011

Frederic Pohl's Birthday Wish

The wonderful science fiction author and patriot Frederik Pohl (author of Day Million, The Space Merchants and the HeeChee Saga. He's one smart guy well worth listening to!)  posted the following today:
Dear Readers:
Today is my 92nd birthday, an age which gives me the privilege of asking for the kind of birthday present I would most like to get. That present is simply this: Please take this seriously.
As you can see, the letter below is addressed primarily to our American occupiers, since they’re the ones most likely to climb on and make it move. But it’s also for every American voter who can see that something is crucially threatening our society’s basic needs, and wants to do something to stop it.
Dear Occupier:
You’ve made a wonderful start! Now give the Republican war machine a kick where it hurts them the most. Copy the letter below. Send it to every Republican official or candidate in your state, town or district. Make some more copies and send them to all your friends … and do it quickly, before the Republican High Command finds some way of stopping it.
The Republicans think they own everything, from the Supreme Court to your local school board. They come pretty close, too. But they don’t own your vote — yet. Use it while you’ve still got it!
Print or type your name
And your home address
All of it
Dear former Republican friend:
This letter is to let you know that your Party’s tactics of destroying the ability of our government to function by means of your no-tax increase-pledge is too recklessly destructive a threat to be taken, even by fanatics.
Accordingly, I now pledge that I, the undersigned, will never again vote for any Republican candidate for any elective office in America until the Republican Party abandons this perilous, un-American and very nearly treasonable action.
Sincerely yours,
(A Registered Voter
At the Above Address.)
(original here)
After all the good stuff this guy has given us, shouldn't we give him one little gift?

Friday, November 25, 2011

What is the Civilian Medical Resources Network?

My friends at the GI Rights Hotline told me about this great group, which can use a little help:

Article Banner
"An average of eighteen United States military veterans kill themselves every day. Nearly a thousand former soldiers under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs attempt suicide every month. The crisis has grown so urgent that more veterans are killing themselves than are dying in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In April 2008 a study by the RAND Corporation reported that 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans currently suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and/or major depression. An additional 320,000 soldiers suffer from traumatic brain injury or physical brain damage. Many of these GIs do not receive adequate help from the Pentagon and VA system.
The Civilian Medical Resources Network began in March 2005, working to address the unmet medical and psychological needs of active-duty U.S. military personnel who contact the GI Rights Hotline (a national effort by 25 religious and peace organizations).
The Network has grown from three participating professionals to over 85 currently, located in all areas of the country. Professionals receive a brief training in the support and documentation that the GIs require. Due to GIs' limited financial resources and insurance coverage for civilian services, Network professionals generally provide care free or at greatly reduced cost. When possible, GIs visit Network professionals in person; if an in-person visit proves unfeasible due to geographical distance, Network professionals assist GIs by telephone consultations. The volume of new clients that the Network serves has increased from approximately two per month initially to four per week currently. We are expanding our outreach to peace organizations, professional organizations, and especially GIs.
To support this group - and/or to contact it if you need it - see

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Corn, Crocosmia, and Family (#ctww)

Corn stalks, bound with
fiberous stalks from
flowers (Crocosmia)
What new thing am I thankful for this year?
Decorating for Thanksgiving this year, I used the corn stalks planted by Mother-In-Law toward the end of the summer. Their ears didn't have time to ripen, but they gave a Happy Harvest Festival look to our Narnia Lamp, just in time for Thanksgiving!
I bound the stalks to the lamp with a couple of stalks from the Crocosmia in the side yard. This is a very pretty perennial that naturally dies back, leaving brown stalks and leaves that are rich in long and strong fibers.I'm sure that an overachiever could process the fibers and spin them into twine or a fabric, but for rough outdoor work, it sufficed to treat the stalks, which had been softened by rainy weather, as a thick twine or narrow yarn.
This decoration is 100% local, biodegradable and free. When it's time to replace it with the next holiday's decor, I'll send it onto the compost heap. What a win in every way!
I didn't think of this idea until too late for last week's Change the World Wednesday challenge, (eco-friendly holiday decor) but I'll pass it on to CTWW anyway, along with my response to this weeks's challenge:
"This week make  a conscious effort to waste no food."
This will be a challenge this week especially, because we made a whole lot of food for Thanksgiving and didn't succeed in giving away all the leftovers.We had an excellent time with much of my family: my mother, sister Sue, her daughter Caillie, brothers David and Eric, sister-in-law Jie and of course Kris and the three cats. Unfortunately Steve and Sherri were unable to make it, due to the power outage in Everett, but the food situation was bountiful - which is sort of the point of Thanksgiving. If we are systematic, I think we can ensure that the leftover all get eaten in the normal course of meals over the next week.
In some sense, we're already ahead in the "waste no food" effort since I used some "tired fruit" in making a pie. "Tired fruit" isn't a scientific term, but it's what you get when fruit or berries have sat around for a little too long - they aren't rotten but are making their displeasure at being ignored known by adopting a drawn, wan, possibly dry appearance. We used to habitually toss out such fruit, either in the trash or composting. However, this is wasteful and unnecessary. I've learned to give such sullen food the freeze-out, usually by tossing them into the freezer. Then, when it's time to make a pie, pull out the tired fruit and mix with a little fresh; the baking process seems to forgiven the problem and we get to enjoy the fruit anew. There may be some slight loss in nutrition, as compared to fresh fruit, but it's still better than many other foods.
This Thanksgiving, I was pondering what kind of cheesecake to make when I remembered some huckleberries, still in the freezer from last year. I added them to the mix and they provided a wonderful extra flavor that made it the most memorial desert of the day. The procedure for the pie can hardly be called a recipe, but it went like this:
Get a graham cracker crust (I used a pre-made one because we were busy this holiday, but making a crust isn't that hard.) Soften an 8 ounce block of cream cheese by bringing it up to room temperature and squeezing it while still in the package. In a sturdy bowl, whip the cream cheese and some sugar (I like brown sugar but I suppose any kind will do), then add a little moisture (I used soy milk but any dairy product will do - the exception is fat-free milk which is a fail not because it wouldn't work but because it is an Abomination!). Now add the berries and some cocoa (I'm not specifying how much because you should make your own choice there; look at the mix and see if you want more). Add a little bit of almond extra and spices such as cinnamon. When you're ready to back, add two eggs and mix well. Pour mix into pie shell and sprinkle the top with more cinnamon (...if I had mint leaves, I would have put those on top). Bake at something like 350 F until done; you can tell it's done when you poke something into the middle of the pie and it doesn't get all sticky.
This was a very successful dessert, judging by the number of people who wen t for a second piece - and making it was literally easy as pie!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Free Continuing Legal Education Available Anytime on the Web!

You can get dozens of hours of Continuing Legal Education credit any time you want through an increasingly popular form of distribution: free online recordings!

I'm in the process of sorting them into a useful order on the 4freeCLE Anytime CLE page, but for people in a hurry, here's a master list:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Freecycle Works!

Yeah, this was high-tech once!
As we clean out our house in preparation for a big family Thanksgiving dinner, I've been freecycling all sorts of stuff: a ream of tractor-feed paper, a box of holiday cards, and a photo-enlargener that I had been sure I could sell on craigslist, but never got around to it.
These could have gone into the dump or recycling, but instead are enjoying a productive life somewhere. It's a little bit of community service (...and sometimes I get very interesting conversations out of the interaction ...) Everyone wins!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Same Time Next Year: Thinking About Holiday Decorating

Naughty or nice phooey!
What Santa wants to know is whether you've
been thrifty and environmentally conscientious!
Holidays are predictable: we can know when a holiday is coming literally centuries in advance. This gives use a huge opportunity to save money, jobs and the planet by thinking ahead in our holiday planning, and in particular in our holiday decorating:
  • Say it loud and say it proud: you do not NEED to buy holiday ornaments. You need air, food, sleep, love, and so forth; ornaments will not get you any of those.
  • You may still WANT to decorate. That's fine, because aren't you entitled to a bit of fun? But think about what you are trying to do with holiday ornaments: is it just to have the pleasure of spending money, or more along the lines of making your environment a bit more cheerful during the darkness of winter? If your purpose is morale, then think of what will maximize your achieving your goal beyond merely spending money on what-ever mass-produced garbage has been shipped into your community.
  • Decorate locally: Chances are, getting something made locally will work better than anything shipped in from overseas, because in buying local, you will have the good feeling of having helped support your community, helping save someone's job, reducing energy costs, and reducing the general turning of our country into one smooth homogenous paste from sea to sea.
  • Use Natural and/or Found Objects: What could be more local than leaves, pine cones, and other items shed by local trees? The can make very effective decorations, as well as being environmentally responsible and economical. We use locally-grown leaves, branches, pinecones, cornstalks etc. As a side-bonues, walking around the neighborhood to see where the wind piles leaves is another chance to say hi to the neighbors!
  • Remember the Olde Tymes: All our holidays, except Festivus, date from a time before plastic or massive production. Let your ornaments reflect this! With the exception of replacing candles (dangerous!) with LED lights (good!), you should be able to decorate very well with simple materials crafted by your or someone you know. The time you spend crafting decorations is basically a second job, since with a little practice you can with your crafting displace purchases for which you would otherwise have had to earn money. For example, this Halloween I crafted a simple yet VERY effective set of eyes and fangs our yard lamp; it cost almost nothing but a little time, yet fit the holiday and our yard so well!
  • If you must buy decorations, get them the week after the holiday for use next year, or perhaps during the sales just before the holiday. Never, ever pay full price by purchasing during the holiday season; you want to save money by basically picking up the stuff before it hits the trash can. This is an especially good tactic with thrift stores; since they cannot ship unsold inventor back to the manufacturer, they may have a greater tendency to markdown what they would otherwise discard. I feel it is important to keep these in boxes or covered tubs that are labelled on the side, because notes written on the top of boxes get hidden when the boxes are stacked.
  • Do support artists like. Last year, I got the Order of the Stick Christmas ornaments because they have special meaning to my wife and I, and we want to support the artist's work. This makes us enjoy them extra!
I got thinking about this subject thanks to the Change The World Wesnesday Challenge:
"...we'd like your tips & ideas for decorating in a "green" way. And, of course, we'd like you to choose Eco-friendly decorations for your event."
As so often is the case, eco-friendly items can be easy on the pocketbook if their eco-friendliness rests on minimizing waste. Locally produced items are good for local jobs as well!