Friday, July 01, 2011

Neighboring Fun!

On the roof of Scott's house

I do love me some virtual reality activism, such as The Progressive Slate where I can help raise money for progressive causes with the click of a mouse, or the occasional petition thru sites such as . But there's no substitute for F2F, everyday human contact whereever you go, and whereever you are. Humans need human contact, and there's no substitute for actually putting a plant in soil or helping recycle materials that would otherwise go into the landfill.The Puget Sound region has so many opportunities for such hands-on activism that it's really just a question of deciding what you're interested in and what fits into your lifestyle. Freecycle, Sustainable West Seattle and (or favor) donating & shopping at thrift stores enable us to enjoy a much better standard of living than if we had stuck to our older, more wasteful ways. Making these a habit seems to re-orient life so that sustainable action, rather than waste, can become the default move.
This can pay off in funny ways. Last money I helped our new neighbors Scott & Dolores with some yard work; the house they bought had been vacant for a while and there was serious undergrowth to clean out. They were going to dumpster it all, and I thought, "Hey, that's biomass I need for my compost pile!" It worked out well for all of us: I took the biomass which helped my raised beds, they got a lower dumpster fee, the community got a little be less in the landfill.
Likewise, we tackled the old garage, where I scored some CD shelves that I took to the Mercer Island Thrift Store. There they fit neatly in a small blank wall space in the book area where I'd been wanting to promote board books. Everybody won on that one!
Sunday we took this principle "to new heights". Their house has an old-school TV antenna on top, which has no function since the coming of cable; all it does is place stress on the roof. He could have hauled his ladder from their place in Auburn but since we're neighbors I just lent him mine, which gave me the opportunity to climb up on his roof and see the world from a different spot as we undid the bolts. I couldn't resist the urge to pull out my camera; photos that you take of yourself tend to have a goofy quality but now I'll always remember meeting and beating that rooftop challenge!
Being active can be fun!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Question All Bills

This is not a story in which I come off as being especially brilliant, but perhaps by writing it down I'll save myself or someone else a little money in the future."They" say you should always check your bills, and I have further proof that "they" are right. Today I looked over my Discover bill and noticed a charge from Clearwire. That's an internet access service I used last year and cancelled when we moved - or so I thought. It turns out they'd continued to charge me a monthly fee.
I called them immediately to dispute the charge, and was instantly reminded of one reason I dumped them. I'm on the Pacific Coast, so when at 7:50 am my time I phone their tech support center on the East Coast, I know they're open from a physical-reality standpoint. However, they have a clever systems by which they figure out what time zone you're in, and refuse to answer your call until 8am my time - even though they are open for business to people on the East Coast. It's a completely unnecessary bit of annoyance and bad service.
Clearwire's records said that I'd extended my service last year, back when I'd moved. It took 50 minutes of conversation, waiting on hold and asking to speak with a manager before Clearwire came up with a counteroffer, to refund the last 6 months of charges. I took the offer, in part because I didn't think further argument would get me any better, and partly because I felt partly responsible for not checking my bill on a monthly basis. Had I done so, I would have noticed the problem earlier and minimized the damage. On the other hand, Clearwire should have had a more helpful system for customers trying to end their service.
I don't blame Clearwire for taking my money when I left it around for them to take. It's like blaming a dog for eating a steak left within their reach. Corporations are hungry and have no conscience, so we have to keep an eye on them and slap them down when they reach for our money.
Checking every bill every time is a bother, and I let it slide. I paid the price. Don't let it happen to you; question every bill! The good news is that questioning this bill paid off for me this time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Activism Fun: a Change The World Wednesday Challenge

The current Change the World Wednesday Challenge gave us a lot of choices:
"This week, become an activist. Please take some kind of action (letter writing, phone calls, petitions, etc.) designed to encourage a business, community, government, etc. to make a positive change. Need some ideas? Here you go..."
PRO TIP: taking positive action is fun! Instead of sitting around, watching TV and being passive, you can exercise your mind checking out worthy causing and taking a little action!
My current favorite virtual reality activism is The Progressive Slate where I can help raise money for progressive causes with the click of a mouse. Every day, I get one email from them with clickthrus; it's a nice, short coffee break during which I make my small contribution to worthy causes AND I learn a little bit about them. It keeps the mind fresh to be always learning!
Today I also enjoyed noodling through the links that the Challenge offered , and decided to spend a little time on There's no substitute for F2F, everyday human contact whereever you go, and whereever you are, but if where you are is stuck in front of a computer, taking a moment to be active can be fun!