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Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

We’ve finally managed to get all the boxes (mostly) unpacked and I can tell you it feels VERY nice to be settled. The furnished apartment was pleasant, but it wasn’t home. Now those things that make a home what it is are in their proper places and I feel like I can breathe deeply…

…and get to work on transforming this place into sustainable central. First, the worm bin. We picked one up for free on Craigslist. And I found a red wriggler supplier in Marilyn, the owner of Zippy’s Java Lounge. (I’ve heard she has the best in Everett. It’s good stuff). I plan on stopping by this weekend and picking up a pound or two. Then we’ll start converting our table scraps into brown gold. The worms will love us, especially when we start giving them the leftovers from our gorgeous new stainless steel Juicelady that Denette picked up at Goodwill for $20. Have you ever had fresh carrot juice? It’s the nectar of the gods. Seriously. You have to try it.

Next, the garden…and beyond. I’m going to go a bit more Permaculture up here—create an edible environment throughout the yard. And speaking of yard, I talked with one of the landlords and he said we had creative free rein. He might not have said that if he was aware of my knack for yard transformation. We have a beautiful section of south-facing lawn that—once leveled—will make a perfect spot for some raised beds. No tomatoes, though. I’ve been told by a couple of old salts that it’s just not hot enough for them. Of course, that sounds like a challenge to me, so I’ll have to find a solution. I like my fresh tomatoes too much to give up without a fight!

Speaking of transformation: Denette transformed an empty house with little furniture into a fully-furnished home in three weeks. And virtually for free. We now have a couch, a guest bed, an entertainment center, two chairs, and an end table, all acquired through craigslist/freecycle. Now when I get home from work I can collapse on the nice comfy couch instead of the hard wood floor.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be four blocks from my place of employ. I walk down in the chill of the morning and arrive with lungs full of fresh air and my heart pumping. People at work think I’m irritatingly chipper at 7:30 AM. I just smile and nod. Even better is the return home, when the kids come racing down the hill on their scooters to meet me. Then we go for a walk. Well, I walk, they ride their scooters or their bikes. I have to take my bike in for repairs (Kaia has grounded me because of my lack of brakes), but once I do I plan to use it as my primary means of transportation to both hospital campuses and around town on the weekends. The city center in Everett is perfect for biking.

Not only am I four blocks from work, the kids are four blocks from the home school facility. I know, it sounds a little oxymoronic, but the home school program up in WA is an extension of the public school system, though they have considerable autonomy. They offer structured classes for those who want them. It’s really kind of like college for primary-age kids. Logan is loving his classes in math, science, social studies, and tae kwon do. He spends an hour a week in class, the rest of the work he does independently. Kaia should be in the program as well, but she just missed the cutoff date for kindergarten, so the goal is to get her tested into 1st grade next year. When one of the teachers at the home school facility saw her reading, she thought Kaia was already in 1st grade.

Final topic for this post: when we moved up here I set a goal of creating a home gym for free. When we were still in Cali, we had canceled our gym membership and I had created a pretty nice setup with cinder blocks, a couple of iron bars, and some free weights. I wanted a bit more up here, but I was determined not to pay for it. I knew of there were lots of people who had bought a treadmill, used it for a week, and then were desperate to get rid of it to assuage their guilt for letting it gather dust. Well, I’m proud to say that we accomplished my goal within the first two weeks! We now have a Nordictrack, an elliptical, a multi-use home gym (pulldown, bench/flye, leg extension/curl, low row, and stair stepper), a flat/incline bench with a preacher curl connector, a barbell, and two dumbbells with about 190 lbs in plates. This incredible haul was due mostly to Denette’s amazing craigslisting/freecycling skills. She would find it, I would call on it, and we would go and pick it up. I’m totally inspired. In fact, I think I’m going to have to get a quick ski in right now.

With that, I raise one well-muscled arm to you in farewell. Until next time!

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Okay, motivated by my mom’s articles and a recent deluge of GMO-related emails from organizations like Organic Consumers Association (OCA), I have taken action and thrown my considerable weight (insert laughter here) behind several petitions and campaigns to oppose the growing use of GMO products—despite the proven negative effects of previously approved products like maize and cotton—and the continued influence of former Monsanto executives on our agricultural philosophy and policy. So, as part of this weight throwing around stuff, I thought I’d lay out a very brief case against GMOs and the poster child of GMO infiltration, Monsanto.

I want to preface the rest of this polemic against Monsanto and its ilk by saying that I’m not against agricultural innovation, or even GMOs (sorry, mom), per se. What I am against is bad science, unethical (and illegal) business practices, and a blatant disregard for health and human rights. Study after study has proven the ineffectiveness of GMO products to date, the real and potential harm they cause to the environment and animals (including humans), and the real costs of additional pesticides, fuel, and labor required to use them—costs with no demonstrated returns.

It’s worth noting (and even emphasizing) that it’s not like there is lack of innovation in other modalities, specifically the field of organics. For instance, the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted a comparative study of crop yields and found that

Organic [my emphasis] and low-external-input methods (which use reduced amounts of fertilizer and pesticides compared to typical industrial crop production) generally produce yields comparable to those of conventional methods for growing corn or soybeans. For example, non-transgenic soybeans in recent low-external-input experiments produced yields 13 percent higher than for GE soybeans…. 1

This puts paid to the idea that we need GMOs to feed the world. What we need to do is utilize the most effective proven methods available. Those methods exclude GMOs. And Monsanto. And therein lies the rub. Monsanto needs to make money on its investment in GMO research, regardless of its efficacy.

It’s also worth noting that the coalition against GMOs cuts across political, cultural, and philosophical backgrounds. Some of the most vocal opponents of Monanto (and often the recipients of their lawsuits and mafioso tactics) are small farmers and seed companies. There are a multitude of examples. Here are a few from such varied sources as Democracy Underground, OCA, and the AP.

I could go on for many more paragraphs. But I’ll save you from the torture. Instead, I encourage you to follow the links below, sign the petitions, and get educated and involved. I can think of few other things as important as protecting one of the Big Three: food, water, shelter

Prevent a Monsanto lobbyist from getting appointed by Obama

Oppose the USDA’s approval of GMO alfalfa

Whew. All right, I’m climbing off my soapbox and walking away from Speaker’s Corner. For my next post I promise an optimistic and lighthearted topic!

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I suppose it isn’t the best sign that I’m recommitting to this blog on Saturday—after I promised my mom I’d post it on Friday. We talked last week and agreed we would post a new article every Friday to get back on track as I settle in to my new job and begin to find time to refocus on this project.

Because I have lots of ideas. There are some wonderful things we can do from two different cities. Everett is a wonderful place with a very robust green movement; it would be fun to compare, contrast, and even compete. May the greenest city win!

And I still have miles of footage from our shooting in SLO that I want to develop. Once I get all of my equipment up here from Cali in the next month and I once I get settled in to a workspace (my iMac is currently sitting on a dresser in our short-stay apartment) I can again dive into that great footage and put together some segments.

In short, we’re still here, and soon we’ll be back in full (or better) force—exploring, learning, teaching, and inspiring. And we hope you’ll join us.

Look for a new and insightful post from either me or my mom every Friday. It’s a promise from us. Well, for me it’s more of a commitment. We’ll call it a guideline.

Cheers and thanks for sticking around!

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Hey all, my sis-in-law, Shawna, turned me on to an incredible website (and movement) called Healthy Child, Healthy World. As the name indicates, it is devoted to one thing: the health of our children. It’s an amazing site, and obviously well-supported. And the topics (like GMO labeling and enchanced chemical regulations) are near and dear to my heart.

Take a look at this well-produced trailer to get a sense of the founders’ commitment and the scope of their project. It’s very exciting!

I wonder if Healthy Child will be able to generate that all-important critical mass to affect real and sustained change. I certainly hope so, because although the focus might be our children (which is plenty important enough), the effects of the changes would be far-reaching.

I’d like to know what you think.

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Bernie Sanders inspires me. He’s one of the few people who authentically represents the interests of his constituents and his country. In the video below, one in a series produced by Brave New Films, Bernie speaks eloquently about the connection between green policies and economic growth and the strides that the government has made in the past year towards a viable green future.

We could certainly use a few more Bernie Sanders on Capitol Hill.

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As I watch Logan and Kaia gleefully investigate their piles of loot (Dad, what’s a Milky Way? Mom, I have FOUR Kit-Kats!) I remember my own gloriously gluttonous nights of sugar-induced satisfaction. I remember my bag filling with each trick-or-treat until it was so heavy I had to switch hands every few steps. And I remember my eyes getting bigger as I sat on the living room floor and dumped the contents of my bag into an ever-growing pile of chocolate-covered decadence.

 

Sometimes excess is just plain fun. Sometimes.

I was reminded of a Philosophy Bites podcast where scholar Roger Crisp explains that we’ve done a great job of mucking up Aristotle’s idea of moderation by repeating something he never wrote but is now credited with: “Do everything in moderation.” According to Roger, Aristotle didn’t advocate the kind of moderation we now associate with the statement: a constant striving for a “middle ground” with no variation. Instead, Aristotle took a longer view, one that suggested our extremes should balance out over the course of our lives, that the “mean” of all our actions would be a moderate, or virtuous, life. For Aristotle, too much austerity was just as immoderate as too much gluttony, and a day-to-day search for moderation would probably result in immoderation.

It’s analogous to good driving: if we’re looking at the bumper of the car right in front of us and making adjustments every few seconds, we’re reacting to inconsequential events and actually doing a pretty terrible job of driving; however, if we’re also looking ahead, appraising things from a distance, and reacting to events that are of consequence, then we’re doing a good job of driving. Incidentally, the drivers behind us will love us, too, because we’re not hitting our breaks every 25 seconds or swerving for pebbles.

There are practical and psychological sides to this idea as well. What fun is life without a little bit of over-the-top? And how do we know what excessive is unless we’ve experienced it? Roger’s example from the podcast had to do with righteous anger. Aristotle, he said, wouldn’t want us to moderate our response if something made us angry; we should express ourselves, even if the response might be immoderate. If we’re living a moderate life, then the immoderate release of anger would be balanced at some point by an immoderate use of compassion or some other balancing action. Of course, we can have excessive responses, or have an immoderate response at the wrong time. Aristotle’s thoughts on this are a bit more complex than I’m getting in to, here. Best to listen to the podcast if you want a full explanation.

So why am I boring you with Aristotle when I should be peeling my sugar-hyped kids of the ceiling? Because another thought came to mind as I watched Kaia and Logan bartering a Kit-Kat for a Butterfinger: our modern emphasis on “moderation” has resulted in an immoderate lifestyle. Those who would live a modern “moderate” lifestyle are living consistently gluttonous lives. Ever-expanding waistlines are most apparent evidence of this. I’m afraid many kids are not as excited about Halloween as I was when I was young because it’s really no different than a normal day for them.

No less immoderate are the lives of those who seek a countercultural “moderation” rooted in austerity. These kids have apples and carrots on Halloween. Maybe, if they’re lucky, they’ll get a “chocolate” cake made with carob and applesauce. Yummy.

What we need is a new definition of “moderate,” one that takes a long view and allows for excess. We won’t know “too much” unless we experience it. Likewise, we won’t know “too little” unless we experience that as well. Having experienced these excesses myself, I think the “moderate mean” needs to trend a lot closer to what we would define as austerity in our modern, overly consumptive world. Then we’d really appreciate events like Halloween; it would mark a departure from our normal lives. A bag full of candy would again be something to get excited about.

But it has to be a bag full of real candy. Just say no to carob.

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Hey all!

Well, I’ve FINALLY finished this episode. The past few months have been…epic. Lots of things going on in the Blackwell household, the biggest thing being the move to Austin.

But enough about me. This episode has it all: intrigue, humor, excitement, fun, children, and Tom Ogren. Take a look. Leave a comment if you would like to encourage our behavior.

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