Saturday, October 17, 2009

Holy Day of Carpooling!

Every week in these United State, tens of millions drive to church, synagogue, temple, mosque or other house of worship. What if they carpooled?
  • Some polls say 40% of Americans go to church at least weekly; others people dispute these numbers, so let's say 20% do, or around 60 million (out of 300 million). How many cars is that driving to church, and how many miles each way?
  • It's hard to tell, but let's do some rough figures. Some attendees are driving alone; some are packing their SUV with 10 kids. Let's assume the average car going to church four people in it. That gives us roughly 15 million trips to church per week (excluding those who go more than once).
  • Now, can't a lot of these carpool? Our estimate includes SUVs with five empty seats and Cooper Minis, and a huge range in between. If one-half the families carpooled with someone whose door they basically passed on the way to church, that would eliminate 25% of the trips, or roughly 3.75 million trips a week, or 195 MILLION trips a year.
  • How much gas this saves is complicated; it depends on the average trip to church, is a little thrown in for the added weight of the extra people in each vehicle and a little for whatever overhead there may be in picking up carpoolers. But if the average trip burns half a gallon of gas (not unlikely at 23 MPG (the average for passenger cars in 2006, the last year available), then we're talking the savings of over 95 million gallons a year. 
  • Saving 95 million gallons a year is not going to make America energy independent, but it's a big step in the right direction. It's also helpful in cutting the harm to the planet over which we have been given stewardship. If it saves a little money as well, there's no harm in that!
  • If you live within a couple miles of your church, try walking. If it takes you an hour, so what? It's a day of rest, not of work; the walk will do you good both physically and spiritually. And when you get to the pews, they will feel a lot softer.
  • A side-benefit of carpooling, or walking together, is more time building community with fellow parishioners. Who knows, you make discover you have something in common!
Let religious leaders of all faiths urge members of the congregations to carpool; let congregations take the lead themselves. After all, not one Founder of any major Faith ever drove a car!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Green Happyness and Seneca the Wise

Nature does not give us a life that is too short, said the Roman philosopher Seneca in "On The Shortness of Life"; the problem is that we choose to waste our life, and then when it's at an end, we complain.

The problem of Global Climate Change is like that. We have a perfectly good planet, with a pretty reasonable climate, to which our civilization is well-adapted. But we're wasting it, and when it is thoroughly trashed, it won't do any good to complain.  The time to live well is now!

Fortunately, while the business of saving our planet is pretty darn serious, the stuff we have to do is mostly very pleasant. While thousands on Blog Action Day may talk about the serious business of Climate Change let me focus on the way going green will make you happier.
  • It's a challenge. Some of us just like challenges, that's all there is to it. Figuring out how to walk lightly on the earth takes thought and sometimes a bit of work. When people who are too lazy to clean up after themselves skank up our planet, all I can say is to them is: Man, do you look stupid! People like me, we really like a challenge!
  • It's an outlet for creativity. We all have a natural urge to be creative. Too many people have squelched it out as kids, so that it can be really frightening to stop and think, "Can't we do this better? Yes, we can!" It's like they feel Sister Mary Elephant is going to smack them on the hand with a cosmic ruler if they realize that, no, they don't have to mow their lawn, wasting their time and filling the air with gas fumes; they could plant it in wildflowers instead. The web makes it easier to be creative, because the results of your creativity can be shared with everyone, instead of only my immediate friends & family. If I have a small idea for a small improvement, its utility is vastly multiple by simply tagging it green.
  • You meet interesting people. Life is too short to spend with wasteful lunkheads; to find really interesting people, check out those who are on practical solutions of all types. I've met a lot of interesting people through Change the World Wednesday, Sustainable Belltown, the Seattle Urban Ag project, and so on. 
  • You live longer if you live green. Foodstuffs that are optimized for travelling long distances have to sacrifice something, and that something is "nutrition". Indeed,  there are often poisons added. Those food preservatives may accumulate in you, so that your corpse may stay fresh longer, but would that be any comfort to you or to your survivors? Likewise, every bit of walking you do is better than any amount of driving; not only do you need the exercise anyway, the more you stay away from the exhaust fumes in highway air, the less likely you are to get some awful tumor. In those extra years you live, you can have a lot of fun!
  • Food tastes better. Now that I have grown my own organic tomatoes, anything from the store tastes like plastic. Go green with your food, and you're spoiled for life!
Certainly, global climate change is a hard topic, and many hard things have to be done. But on the way, and at the end, we can be happier.

Wouldn't you feel stupid coming to the end of your life and saying, "Wow, I wasted my time garbaging up my home and my body. Please, give me another chance!"

Too late chump! The time to act is now, AND we're having a good time doing it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Loading Dock Vortex and The Thrift Store

Apartment and condo loading docks are like those mysterious ocean vortexes that, in the Pacific, accumulate Texas-sized regions of poison trash or, in the Atlantic, lost ships and flying saucers. Stuff naturally gathers as the flow of people move in and around.

In our building, the loading dock area includes our recycling and trash bins, so everything that leaves the building passes through, swirls around, and is concentrated in a small area, especially on a holiday weekend. By far the largest amount of stuff that accumulates is trash (as in the Pacific vortex), but into a secondary vortex, defined by the edge of the dock and the door, accrues possibly usable stuff: dishes, clothing, CDs, lamps, chairs. Our residents tend to be prosperous and, on the evidence, many cannot be bothered to ship every possession when they move, but are reluctant to trash them. If you wait long enough, you'll see clothing of every sort, and every small item from the IKEA catalog.

These items tend to sit for a day, then the staff tosses them in the trash dumpster. What else can they do? They have to keep the loading dock clean.

Into this vortex toddles Me. Several times a week, I volunteer at the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Thrift Store (MITS.) Over time, I've become a conduit between the loading dock and the thrift store; it's trivially easy to toss any reusable item that is Lost in the Dock Vortex into my car and on into a second life at MITS.

This gives me a double reward. Having grown up poor, I don't like to trash anything that looks still useful, and the Thrift Store raises money applied to a very good purpose, so I feel good about that too.

If you live in a similar situation, I hope you can work out some variation on this Loading Dock/Thrift Store connection. It might be better if our community organized a systematic collection of usable items for a more local thrift store; are you the clever person who will take this idea and run with it to fame and glory? We have nothing to lose but our loading dock trash vortex!

In the spirit of this week's Change the World Wednesdays, I had hoped to Take a Trash Walk, but I caught that nasty bug that's going around and so not moving very far nor fast. About the extent of my operational range on foot is our loading dock, but even with that limitation, I was able to repurpose a box of clothing and a cloth bag (!) of cooking pans (!!) that would otherwise have been trashed. I hope that, with the coming of spring, I can encourage our delightful Sustainable Belltown to think about a few Trash Walks as a social activity!

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Why in the World are We Here?

...Surely not to live in pain and fear..."

Ya know, I don't have all the answers, and it's clear that as a mere human being, I lack the cranial capacity to HAVE all the answers.

But "Instant Karma" is a true partial answer. It's just illogical to suppose that the reason we are here is to suffer.


Fun with Bigots at the Farmer's Market

Sunday at the West Seattle Farmer's Market, I was shocked to see a person distributing "Reject Referendum 71" literature.

For you outsiders, Referendum 71 gives civil legal rights to gay and elderly couples - click on the green sign for details. Who could oppose that?

I could not believe someone so ignorant and choked with hatred would be in my own neighborhood, but there she was. What to do? Arguing with her would be pointless; she's not going to change, and any conflict only feeds the fear, and fear is the core of the hate groups funding Reject Referendum 71
...if you think I exaggerate? I didn't attend seminary for four years without learning how important fear is to an organized religion's hierarchy. The wealthier they get, the more they rely on money and fear, not love, to keep their seat; hence the institutional homophobia that drives up donations. You don't think that glossy literature wasn't printed without a profit, do you?
I pondered what to do as I shopped with The Lovely Wife, when suddenly I noticed people had gathered round the Rejectionist. They held 8x11 sheets of paper, ad hoc signs, with a simple message in magic marker: "BIGOT ->"  (with the arrow point at the bigot.)  They stood smiling, and what could the bigot do? All her glossy words could not deny what she was.

I wanted to express support, but the moment was passing and I had to go. So I waved and called out:

"I am a threat to marriage!
I got a divorce!
I'm a straight guy and I wrecked a marriage!
Forgive me!"

Everyone laughed. For a moment, we were all together. Everyone knows us straight guys with divorces are a proven threat to marriage, a greater problem than every gay or elderly couple in Washington State who want equality under the law.

"It got better!" I waved. They waved back and laughed. The day was good.

But I'm gonna make my own  "BIGOT->" sign and keep in with me ... just in case!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Straight Privilege in 140 characters or less ...

Twitter Hashtag #StraightPrivilege is about the privileges we straights have, just by virtue of being straight. Some are funny, others thoughtful. It turns out there are hundreds of  #StraightPrivilege; add your own!

Here are the ones I came up with, plus a few of my favorites from others (the MT's and RT's):
  • If men who cheat on their 2nd and 3rd wives say that YOU are a threat to marriage, you must lack #straightprivilege
  • No-one tries to "Cure" me, because I have #straightprivilege !
  • In America, anyone can become President, if they have the #straightprivilege
  • MT @gutsandgrace  I married the one I love, but don't understand why it remains a #straightprivilege
  • #straightprivilege means we can fight and die for our country without having to lie
  • If bishops who protect child rapists say YOU are immoral, it's because they have  #straightprivilege
  • Alan Turing (whose work is fundamental to the internet) was forceably medicated because he lacked the #straightprivilege
  • RT @harrislacewell: I will never lose custody of my child because of my orientation. #straightprivilege
  • MT @writeli People don't assume my relationship is based on sexual acts and not love, cuz I got #straightprivilege
  • If I died suddenly, #straightprivilege means my wife gets my stuff without my having to have written a will
  • If no-one says "I love you but I hate what you are", then you may have #straightprivilege
  • I get to tell you "You're Doin' sex WRONG!!!" because I got the #straightprivilege !

  • "RT" means "Retweet X", that is to say, I'm passing on the writing of person X.
  • "MT x" means "Modified Retweet X", that is to say, I'm slightly modifying the writing of person X.

Palin Book Sales Scam

Incredible sales figures for Sarah Palins upcoming books are easily explained: they are fake.

According to a Newmax ad for Palin's new book, you can get a FREE COPY if you subscribe to their magazine!

Or, if you don't subscribe, they'll send you a copy for $8.95 ... that's TWENTY BUCKS off the cover price.

Yes - they are offering a 60% discount off the price of a book that's still at the printers. After all, they pre-paid for a LOT of those babies, and they've gotta MOVE them ON!

As happens so often with reichwing authors, their "advance sales" include huge orders by political organizations that give them away. This lets them claim their books are "best sellers" without actually selling any.

Indeed, the physical books may not even exist yet, but thanks to the magic of fake sales jobs like this, it can be a "best seller".

Who, after all, is going to READ Palin's book?

Will she?

Jonathan Swift comes to the Red States on Health Care

More at Red State Update