Friday, May 30, 2008

Rounded up Stuff

My current job works with the students who come up with some of the theories and discoveries about Neuroscience, etc. that are featured in this trippy Scientific American article. It's just so wacky, like the grey squares actually being the same shade? Or, the wheels aren't really turning in the image above.... ?! No way! It's pretty cool stuff.

Also speaking of cool, my fascination with handbags was fueled by this good news in the world of recycled art-wear.

And finally, my Jimmy Carter-era desire to see metrics in place in the good ole US of A might just be around the corner. I thought we got all the "it doesn't go up to 11" issues worked out with Y2K....?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

Sad news yesterday: My dad's best friend from childhood, Peter Higgins, died over the weekend. "He was honest, and generous: a good chap. And my best friend. I'll miss him terribly." He was the last of my dad's friends from growing up. He was also a great host and treated me so well when I visited during my year in France. He and his family were fantastic. I'll miss him too.

I saw this quote at Cooking in the 'Cuse and had to share. Have a good weekend, all.

E. B. White

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

Source: Notes and Comment, the New Yorker

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Karmic Hodge Podge

Americablog had a beautiful set of travel photos from a Roman site in Tunisia - check it out!

And then I found Tangled Webs' description of how REALLY bad the oil situation is:

These are from John Mauldin's newsletter in a piece written by the oil analyst David Galland. Galland's take on Saudi Arabia is the most optimistic. I personally think that the Saudi's are hiding the fact that they are at, or very near, peak oil themselves. Then, add this to the equation:

"If you look at the situation in US presidential terms, looking at fossil fuels plus nuclear, the world burned through the equivalent of 10% of all oil ever consumed in Bush's first 4-year term. And, in our model, we're going to burn 10% of all remaining conventional crude in the second 4 years of Bush's term.

Whoa! That's some incredible increase in consumption!

You may have read such analysis before. But you will not often read it coming from a highly mainstream, very conservative market analysts.

If you like $4.00/gal oil, you're going to absolutely love $10/gal oil.
Hopefully, MY candidate for President will help reduce all this crazy consumption!

But, again, and as usual, Bob's Art Blog lifted my spirits - I love Rousseau's works. Did anyone else out there have the Muppets Calendar with Zoot as the "Sleeping Gypsy"?

And then there's Rob Breszny's ALWAYS inspirational horoscope, and general wisdom for this week:
"By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers . . . This palpable world, which we are used to treating with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association, is a holy place."
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20):

A professional dominatrix I know says that many of her clients are men whose jobs give them excessive authority over other people. When she's bossing around these honchos, she sees herself as an agent of karmic correction, counteracting a dangerous lopsidedness in their psyches. I bring this up, Pisces, because you're in a phase when you should rectify any imbalance of power that exists in your own sphere. If you're a swaggering alpha male or female, put in a stint as a humble servant. If you're normally a timid soul, flex your willpower with feisty abandon. If you're neither a control freak nor a doormat -- and thus have no karma to balance -- spend quality time meditating on how to gain more power over the wild ebbs and flows of your imagination.

"Let the body think of the spirit as streaming, pouring, rushing and shining into it from all aides."
- Plotinus
So, isn't it an amazing coincidence, that, in keeping with the Karmic message above, my friend, Clarissa, told me this story on the walk to work today about a lost pencil? I had to share!

When Clarissa was in elementary school she had a blue pencil she absolutely loved. She used it every day, and wore it down so that it got to be small after all the sharpening, you know. So one day, she dropped it while she was riding the bus. She looked for it, couldn't find it, and figured it was lost forever. About a year later she was riding the bus and all of a sudden, HER little blue pencil rolled out from under one of the seats. She picked it up and checked, and indeed, it was hers. Feels karmic, doesn't it?

Finally, from Bris de Mots:
"Toutes les choses de la terre
Il faudrait les aimer passagères
Et les porter au bout des doigts
Et les chanter à basse voix
Les garder les offrir
Tour à tour n'y tenir
Davantage qu'un jour les prendre
Tout à l'heure les rendre
Comme son billet de voyage
Et consentir à perdre leur visage"

Anne Perrier, Oeuvre poétique, 1952-1994, in Pour un vitrail, préface de Gérard Bocholier, L'Escampette, 1996

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Green News

Philadelphia's Greensgrow gardens were just written up in the New York Times.

Our little "Green Thumbs" community garden's land has been bought, so we are searching for a new home. There are a couple of options afloat, but right now I'm thinking this might be the year to focus on gardening in the back (shady) yard. And maybe put in a "rain garden" in front. We'll see how ambitious I am.

In the meantime I'll work on completing this meme I found at Gardenpunks (originally found on Scream to be Green).

Bold - Our family is doing
Italics - My comments

1. Get an Energy Audit (Josiah “knows a guy”)

2. Donate Used Computers

3. Use Cloth Napkins

4. Switch to energy-savings bulbs (Though Josiah frequently does not appreciate the quality of light emitted from them.)

5. Hang dry your clothes

6. Make your next outfit vintage

7. Ride the Bus (Train) (I walk to work)

8. Pay your bills online

9. Say no to Plastic Bags

10. Plant some Bamboo (just might do it)

11. Unplug appliances when off (where possible)

12. Taste test a local wine (we live in PA – blech)

13. Say Bye to your leaf blower (never had one)

14. Rediscover your library

15. Switch off your computer

16. Plant a Garden

17. Buy rechargeable batteries

18. Start a compost heap (I’ll have to tell you all the story sometime about how Angie brought her frozen green scraps down to my compost pile from her apartment in Brooklyn!)

19. Put back unused napkins

20. Bring you own coffee cup (I don’t drink coffee anymore, and rarely drink tea out, but this is a good and do-able idea)

21. Learn to love weeds (I could love them so much I could EAT them, like dandelions!)

22. Read about green weddings

23. Carpool (when possible)

24. Keep car tires inflated (is there an EASY way to tell when there’s not enough air?)

25. Support Local Farmers

26. Use both sides of paper

27. Turn Heating down 1 degree (I’ll see your one and raise you 5 – or would that be LOWER???!)

28. Return old Cell phones (to where?)

29. Drive smart-Plan your trip

30. Wrap water heater in blanket

31. Install low-flow showerheads

32. Wash clothes in Cold or Warm

33. Lights off when you exit a room (I’m a child of the 70’s. President Carter asked us to do this back then, and now it’s a habit. Remember those bright orange stickers on every light switch in the classroom??)

34. Use a lunch box, no paper lunch sacks (I use my daughters’ old ones. Princesses and all.)

35. Give cloth diapers a chance (too much all at one time. But I passed them along)

36. Pick up litter and recycle it

37. Take shorter showers

38. Choose Green-E products

39. Buy the largest size practical

40. Tune up your cars engine

41. Donate used books

42. Seal drafts around windows

43. Leave your car at home for a day

44. Don't idle car more then 10 seconds

45. Think before you print

46. Look for EnergyStar Appliances

47. Unload your car of excess weight

48. Don't buy veggies in trays

49. Choose an energy-efficent vehicle

50. Fix leaking faucets

51. Wipe spills w/ reusable towels

52. Install low-flow toilets

53. Make your own Cleaning Solutions

54. Hold your own "buy nothing" day

55. Reuse Jars & Containers

56. Clean windows w/ old newspapers

57. Build w/ Salvaged wood

58. Share magazines

59. Wrap presents in old calendar pages (or the funny pages from the newspaper)

60. Make Rags from old t-shirts (or old boxer shorts)

61. Send e-cards (yeah, ok. But I’m still old-school with hand-written note thing.)

62. Buy spices in bulk

63. Capture rain water for gardens (working on it!)

64. Return unused sugar packets

65. Drive the speed limit

66. Make note pads from used paper

67. Don't accept plastic utensils

68. Take a break from TV (I don’t watch much anyways)

69. Give a donation instead of a present

70. Buy a bike-Use it.

71. Buy organic cotton

72. When buying clothes, say no to tissue wrap

73. Start a green team @ work

74. Don't boil more then a teacups worth (Well, I make a whole pot of tea at once and then take cups from it throughout the morning. I leave the teabags in so by the end of the pot it’s like Dragon’s Blood. My mam-gu would be proud!)

75. Read about carbon credits

76. Appoint an "office lights" monitor (I’m the un-official lights monitor)

77. Use your legs, not the elevator

78. Stop chasing "the latest"

79. Invigorate your green passion, spend time w/ nature

80. Start a toy-swap w/ friends

81. Ease up on meat products

82. Buy items for durability

83. Buy seasonal produce

84. Take bubble wrap back to packaging stores (I re-use it when sending out packages)

85. Upgrade your furnace (ummmm.)

86. Snip six-pack rings (don't buy 6-packs?)

87. Use low-phosphate detergent

88. Avoid chemical flea collars

89. Choose sustainable flooring

90. Offer art schools your "trash"

91. use a bucket not a hose

92. Learn to mend your socks (This is a good idea. That way I can keep all my pretty argyles in circulation)

93. Eliminate impulse buying (tougher than it sounds)

94. Take extra hangers to dry cleaners (I don't really use the dry cleaner's much)

95. Teach kids thriftiness (I’m trying)

96. Don't sign up for mailing lists

97. Slow down- consume less

98. Fertilize w/ Grass clippings

99. Consider using a solar cooker (how did this tip get in there?)

100. Eat simply, choose whole grains

Friday, May 16, 2008

Great Proustian (?) Green Idea

I'm basically going to cut & paste a whole bunch of Blogfish's post on the genesis of one's environmentalism and Proust. But really, you should go over there yourself and check it out. Great ideas abound!

Conservation, sensuality, and Proust

What was your first taste of conservation? Love of nature? My guess is that your senses were involved before your brain.

Maybe you saw something fantastic, or had a blissful time soaking up nature in a beautiful place.

Then what happened? You saw a threat and got worried or even angry about harm to nature?

If you're like me, you fell in love with nature first, and only later had your brain awakened to threats and the need for conservation action. You started with a loving connection to nature, and only later got all thinky and brain-centered about saving things.

This is well-said by Justin Van Kleeck over at sustainablog, where he writes

environmentalism is mostly about the amazing power and glory of nature. Indeed, environmentalism means luxuriating in the abundance of beauty lying just beyond your door. It is like a life lived within a Proust novel: every thing, every moment, is just dripping with sensuality.

I think there's a better solution, and it's found in Justin's "living community" that's "green with a heart." Rather than telling people to "grow up," we should invite them to feel connected and live their lives with a consciousness and a celebration of the connections between people and nature. That's the way to explode the myth that environmentalism is costly, gloomy, and smug.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Must See: "Rembered Light"

One of the truly wonderful benefits of working at an Ivy League institution, as opposed to a suburban single-sex educational institution, is that one has access to art and cultural gems that otherwise would be hard to come by.

On my lunch break today I was able to see an amazing exhibit of work done by various artists from fragments of stained glass collected by Chaplain McDonald during and after WWII. I reacted more strongly to some pieces than others, but the overall effect of this exhibit was that I was struck by the horror and destruction of war. We, in the US, so far removed from the current war we are embroiled in in Iraq, really have NO idea.

The piece "Soustances" (above) was my favorite of all, second favorite was "St John's Red Lion Square", (right). I thought the text on the art was sometimes distracting, but it did put the piece in a context, and it told a moving story. The promotional cover image for the exhibit was what got me in the door, and I wasn't disappointed.

Anyone who will be in Philly between now and July 6th should make an effort to get to the Arthur Ross Gallery. Especially if you appreciate religious art. But history, architecture and wartime memorabilia buffs will be equally impressed. It may be no coincidence that I am watching 1940's House right now... but it's all tying together in my mind.

I just saw this post on To Miss With Love and I thought it was appropes.... Enjoy, all.

To My Friends

Dear friends, I say friend here
In the larger sense of the word:
Wife, sister, associates, relatives,
Schoolmates, men and women,
Persons seen only once
Or frequented all my life:
Provided that between us, for at least a moment,
Was drawn a segment
A well-defined chord.

I speak for you, companions on a journey
Dense, not devoid of effort
And also for you who have lost
The soul, the spirit, the wish to live.
Or nobody or somebody, or perhaps only one, or you
Who are reading me: remember the time
Before the wax hardened,
When each of us was like a seal.
Each of us carries the imprint
Of the friend met along the way;
In each the trace of each.
For good or evil
In wisdom or in folly
Each stamped by each.

Now that time presses urgently,
And the tasks are finished,
To all of you the modest wish
That the autumn may be long and mild.

Quick Round-Up

The weather here in the City of Brotherly love is gorgeous today. Possibly verging on inspiring. Maybe that's why these tidbits jumped out at me:

Pruned had a post about the un-sunken medieval village that, due to continuing drought in Spain, has revealed itself at the bottom of a reservoir. I can't believe they need ships to bring them water. But I wonder what kind of art was in that church before it sunk under the waves....

Starlight Ministries posted a poem that speaks volumes to me today:

Every child has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does
Anything weird,
But the God who knows only four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come Dance with Me.”
Come Dance.

~Hafez-e-Shirazi (1320-1389)

And then, My old pal, Rob Brezsny has this to say about Pisces this week, though I think he could well be speaking for us all:
PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20):

seeing soldiers kill his mommy?" While I don't claim to have the authoritative answer to that accusation, I think it's worthwhile to consider the possibility that suffering is a gift God gives us in order to prod our evolution. On a personal level, your longing to escape your suffering is a primal force in making you smarter. On a collective level, nothing refines and ennobles us more than our passion to keeIn their lust to prove there's no God, atheists often invoke the existence of suffering. "What kind of deity," one asked me, "allows a child in Darfur to starve to death after have responded with a radical commitment to create a world in which future Darfurs won't happen. These are worthy ideas for you to meditate on in the coming weeks. You will have a tremendous capacity to convert your old wounds, as well as the old wounds of others, intop others from suffering. For every dead child in Darfur, 100 people in other places on the planet brilliant opportunities.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kingdomality Personality Type

I'm always a sucker for the personality test. Here's what my "medieval" personality would be:

Your distinct personality, The Dreamer-Minstrel might be found in most of the thriving kingdoms of the time. You can always see the "Silver Lining" to every dark and dreary cloud. Look at the bright side is your motto and understanding why everything happens for the best is your goal. You are the positive optimist of the world who provides the hope for all humankind. There is nothing so terrible that you can not find some good within it. On the positive side, you are spontaneous, charismatic, idealistic and empathic. On the negative side, you may be a sentimental dreamer who is emotionally impractical. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.
Thanks to A Church for Starving Artists for the link.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Good Church Design posted these covers of "individually packaged" books from the Bible. I must say, the cover images got me to buy each of the four Gospels individually back when they came out. Stark, but not depressing. They really do fit in your pocket(book?) and feel more manageable than lugging the whole Bible around just to read Mark, let's say. Not, of course, that I've made it all the way through Mark yet. Matthew, check! The rest, not yet. But I'm really impressed, both by the designs of the covers, and by GCD blog. It's a really beautiful blog - go check it out!

In other news, even while the diplomats are in a tiff (link), the sailors are doing the right thing - having a sandwich competition. I wish there were more photos as part of the article, but from what I can tell, these are fantastic. In honor of Victory Day.

And in a further move to shrink the world, and encourage us to all get along, tomorrow is Pangea Day. I saw Control Room and LOVED it. The part about the "spontaneous mob that pulled down Saddam's statue" was amazing and chilling. War is hell. It's true. But the propaganda machines are diabolical. Seeing inside what happens in newsrooms (around the world) is frightening. And empowering. If we know that's the lay of the land, maybe we can do something about it. Right?

Thursday, May 8, 2008


So, the photo of the skulls in the Paris Catacombs might not be the most comforting image in the universe, I grant you. But I really am fascinated by the Catacombs, both those in Paris, and those in Rome. And that interest morphs into appreciation for regular cemeteries also. Some people don't like graveyards and think I'm morbid. But I think they are such a tangible, and beautiful connection to our past. They are pleasant places to spend some time, have a picnic even, as our ancestors from the 19th century did.

My first introduction to catacombs was in Rome when my cousin and I did one of the tours along the Appian Way. The Roman catacombs were more a place of clandestine worship and meeting for the early Christians who were persecuted in those days. They knew they could gather under the radar, underground, and keep out of the way of the authorities, so this is where they met. And when their few members died, they could bury them there as well. Some of the catacombs had previous spiritual significance from the earlier Pagan practitioners, so the two uses sort of blended together. I felt a little claustrophobic inside, and was so relieved to be able to step out on the Appian Way afterwards and get some fresh air. Though, that was another mind-blowing experience in itself, to be standing on paving stones that had been there for over 2,000 years, and used as a road pretty much their whole existence. Amazing!

Later I got a chance to see the Catacombs of Paris, which was pretty amazing. These were not as old, dating only as far back as the 1700's. The Parisian catacombs were the new resting place for thousands and thousands of displaced bones moved from other, older, over-crowded Parisian cemeteries. It's a pretty gross idea what the workers had to do that moved all these bones into the new "ossuaries" ("bone depositories"). They had to dig up the old graves, clean out the bones, move them to the catacombs, sort of keep track of where they were from (in a general sense) in the old cemetery, label them, and then organize them into sturdy, somewhat decorative patterns in caverns that may or may not have been sturdy. There became a brotherhood of these workers. And they began to have initiation rites into the brotherhood, emphasizing that once you were accepted, you would not be left behind with all these already-dead people. The work conditions were not great, of course. The caverns they were filling in with bones had once been quarries for stone for all the magnificent buildings around Paris. But that meant that some of the cavern rooms were not that strong and could collapse. There was also the danger of getting some kind of disease from the "fresher" of the skeletons. So the workers built these little chapels where the initiations could happen. The tour guides say they were pretty religious ceremonies, based on Catholic blessings. And I wish I could remember if there was a patron saint invoked or not. But these chapels still feel safer (and drier!) than the rest of the place.

One of the things that drew me to one of my favorite movies, Delicatessen, (besides the wicked dark humor) was the scenes in "les egouts" or the sewer system that also runs under Paris. I really want to take a tour of the sewers, or at least check out the museum. Apparently the guidebook, Paris Secret, is excellent.

All of this leads me to my appreciation of cemeteries. I've been to Père-Lachaise and admired the graves in New Orleans, both of which have magnificent grave markers. I like that there is so much emotion in the carvings and inscriptions (check out the AWESOME virtual tour of Père-Lachaise!). That there is such a presence of and reverence for death. It's comforting in a way. That these people in these tombs won't be forgotten, even if we don't actually know who the people are inside them. I like the cemeteries in Philadelphia. They also have the grand monuments and the feeling of the closeness of death since they boomed in the 19th Century as well.

I could go on and on. Maybe more to come in a future post.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It's a New Day

I found some posts today that made me feel better about the state of the world than I felt yesterday.

I feel like the boingboing post fits in nicely with my horoscope from Rob Brezsny. He's always so right-on:

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20):

"Don't eat any food that's incapable of rotting," says Michael Pollan in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. In other words, highly processed foods with a long shelf life don't contribute to your optimum vitality. I'd like to expand this rule to make it an all-purpose guideline for life. Try out this hypothesis: If you're involved with any person or situation that never decays, or if there is some part of you that never decays, that's highly suspicious and may be a problem. Like growth, rot is a natural phenomenon. Indeed, every advancement requires or brings the disintegration of whatever it replaces. You can't grow if you don't rot! The "perfection" of stasis can be hazardous to your health! So let me ask you, Pisces: What's due to rot in your world?
And then beauty of the tulip fields on Pruned is hard to ignore. Yes, just in time for Mother's Day.It's not very "wild" looking. More like a far-out plaid. Loving it!

Enjoy, people.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Newsy Round-up

Not great news these days, folks, but maybe this DIY fairy house will cheer you up. It helped me a bit.

I guess the cat's out of the bag, or the cat's on the run, or something. Because Pew released its report on the dismal state of factory farming in this country. As I've said before, gross.

The caves that British soldiers rested in before going back into some of the bloodiest fighting of WWI are open to the public as a museum now.

Reports are also coming out about the terrible situation in Myanmar after the cyclone. I guess satellites have to tell the story.

And a good real person's take on how messed up our system is that corporations get welfare, and real people don't. Oy.

It's enough to make me want to go live in fairy land.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Fun

Saw this and got stoked for summer cinema. With the Dark Knight AND Prince Caspian coming this summer, what more could I ask for? Aaahhhh, Christian Bale..... [sigh].

For some fun with a meme (from Emerging Pensees):

What is your _________ name?

1.YOUR ROCK STAR NAME (first pet, current car):
Dido Mazda

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME (fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe):
Butterscotch Slide

3. YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN NAME (favorite color, favorite animal):
Blue Hippo


5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME (the first three letters of your last name, first two of your first name):

6. SUPERHERO NAME (2nd favorite color, favorite drink):
Green Tea

7. NASCAR NAME (the first names of your grandfathers):
Elmer Herbert Herbert Elmer [for real]

8. STRIPPER NAME ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy):
Chanel Chocolate

9. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME (your fifth grade teacher's last name, a major city that starts with the same letter):
Mirizzi Morgantown

10. SPY NAME (your favorite season/holiday, flower):
Midsummer Iris

11. CARTOON NAME (favorite fruit, article of clothing you're wearing right now):
Cherry Socks

12. HIPPIE NAME (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree):
Toast Linden

And finally, it must be that time of year... or maybe because it's been a cool spring here in Philly, I am re-obsessed with the BBC production of Jane Eyre, and the splendiferous Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester. [Angie needs to get my dvd back to me!] Again, with the [sigh].

Well, all, have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy May Day!

Happy May Day! I never realized this, but apparently in France it's "Lily of the Valley" Day. Isn't that beautiful?? I love the smell of Lilies of the Valley. They bloom here, and in CT, right around Mother's Day, and are my mom's favorite flower for scent. In fact, "her" perfume is "Muguet de Bois".

Plus, here's a round-up of good blogospherical stuff:

Bob's review of an art book that spans the globe, and time. Makes me want to read it!

The Poop Report is raising money for latrines in Uttar Pradesh for local girls there... read the story and I bet you'll want to give some money to the cause too! My Uncle Harry would be so proud. I think I'll send him the link.

My dad and I got into a big discussion over the weekend about Thomas "yucky" Friedman and this post at IGHiH pretty much sums it up.

One way to really go greener, no matter WHAT Thomas Friedman says, is to hang out your laundry. And if you have restrictions on laundry hanging in your area, the Laundry List can help!

If you need a little transcendental quickie therapy, try exercise #8, below. I always find Rob Brezsny very helpful!

Experiments and exercises in becoming a mysteriously truthful, teasingly healing, fiercely magnanimous Master of Impartial Passion

8. In our culture, vultures are considered ugly and disgusting. But in ancient Egypt, they were sacred. Scholar Elinor Gadon says they were called "compassionate purifiers." As devourers of corpses, they transformed rotting flesh into usable energy, and expedited the soul's transition to heaven. Queens of Egypt wore vulture headdresses to signify their divine consecration.

How would you invoke the help of mythical vultures in your own life? Here's one possibility. Meditate on death not as the end of physical life, but as a metaphor for shedding what's outworn. In that light, what is the best death you've ever experienced? What death would you like to enjoy next?