Friday, February 29, 2008

Computer Game or, Mom Really Sucks!

You know what I've been doing for the last hour? I've been playing a computer game called Chopper with my son watching me and cracking up. It seems he, and to a lesser extent my daughter, thinks it's hilarious when I die by crashing into buildings, blowing myself up with a misfired bomb or get killed by a bazooka wielding terrorist.

Do you know this game? My husband got it for free somewhere and I was appalled when I first saw my son playing it. The whole point of the game is to rescue civilians from various calamities with the increasing threat of bazooka wielding terrorists, and then war being declared with tanks and a jet fighter with a TRACKING MISSILE!!! You can fight back with a space bar machine gun, a d key bomb and an f key missile. I end up inadvertently killing a lot of civilians in addition to terrorists. I was initially appalled because I didn't want my kids shooting terrorists--whether they're made of pixils or not. I didn't want my kids to drop bombs on buildings and be shot at. Then, they made me play it. What it is is a game of skill and anticipation and choices. Do I want to use a bomb on that tank, I might run out soon, or do I want to use the machine gun, but I might hit a civilian?

I told my friend, Unnamed, about it and she said that her two girls play Mortal Combat...Hmm.
Her husband introduced the girls to it and they love being violent inside of the computer. Of course, in real life they play with dolls and go to music lessons and pretend they're twins with my daughter and play baby. Their game is hardly warping their impressionable minds. My friend doesn't think so any way.

So, in the scope of everything my kids are exposed to or could be exposed to, I'd say that Chopper isn't as bad as some. I'm rationalizing here a bit, but it is a fun game. It is thrilling to try and get in there, rescue the civilians, and get out all unharmed.

Do you know what I have to face?

Here is my first assignment. Not too hard. I just need to carefully land on a building, pick up the executive and fly him back.

See? I got him and have to follow the green arrow back to the chopper landing pad where he'll run out into a building safe and secure.

On this level I have to face a bazooka man. He's going to shoot at me and I have to rescue civilians. I just may squash him with the helicopter. Yeah, that's it.
Hold on civilian--I'll pick you up in a minute!

Uh oh. I've crashed. Sorry civilian. I get to try this level again because I still have a couple of lives left. I'll try to get you on the next go around. Hold on!!

And now we have bunker troubles. That is a huge understatement in that several terrorists with bazookas are now shooting at me!

Look for yourselves! Do you even believe this noise?!

I'm not good enough to capture an image of the fighter plane--suffice it to say that it is almost impossible to evade. I do get a warning sound and a flashing red light to warn me that it has spotted me and is tracking me--a missile fired at me is imminent. Still, I can't get away. My hands get sweaty and I get anxious and I either crash myself into the ground or a building, or crash into the fighter jet itself.

Good shootin' Tex.

This is the point where my son falls to the ground in a hysterical fit of laughter. My daughter being the sweet girl she is, put down a layer of two blankets, and a bean bag chair to cushion my son's inevitable fall for when I screw up. I love it when my kids are supportive of each other.

Here, you see the blanket/bean bag chair arrangement my daughter so thoughtfully put together for my son.

His falling off of the chair is inevitable as long as there is that damned fighter jet. I just don't have a chance against that thing.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

They Try to Tempt Us...

Oh no. Oh no you don't. You are already on my hit list and you shouldn't be sending me any more catalogs soon, or so I've been told. You've been deleted.

Oh no you don't Mini Boden with your cute little cotton clothing for my daughter. You either Pottery Barn. I don't care if there are reduced delivery charges so I could get jute rugs with fabric borders delivered here more economically. No. Not even you Daedalus Books. I see that there are over 240 new titles, but the library has THOUSANDS of new titles and they're free...Yes, I know Mini Boden, that there's 10 % off if I buy now, but that's not going to happen.

Really, your persistence is admirable. But, I am up for a good fight and you guys simply won't win. I gave birth at home you know. Twice. I'm not afraid of you. Do you really think I'll be cowed by some slick, glossy magazine paper covered in pretty pictures? Do you?! You're are so primitive you catalog companies. You think you can dangle shiny things in front of our faces and we'll lap it up like little dogs jumping for a treat. People are catching on. I'm not alone in this. People are looking deeper, and are finding that things alone don't fill the holes in their lives. Even with aromatherapy and scented candles and bubble baths and a calm, soothing place set aside in people's homes, still they are starting to realize that real shifts in perception and calm come from within and not in buying $80 calming bubble bath despite what Oprah says.

Get real.

Meanwhile instead of buying your quality products, I'll watch my daughter lay bricks from her brick house building kit she got at Christmas. I'll watch as she mixes the mortar and water with her little trowel and carefully spreads a thin, uniform layer over a course of bricks.

I'll watch as my son gets out his Chinese calligraphy set and mixes the ink stick with water and swirls the brushes in and paints an abstract painting of his own design.

Although you are pretty, I'm looking for something more substantial around here these days. Surprisingly, we don't feel empty without you in our lives. I feel comfortable with us going our separate ways. I think...well, I think--and this is hard for me to say, and yet I must--I think...we should...start seeing other people...

Goodbye catalogs. It's me, not you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guess What We Did Yesterday

You know what we did yesterday? We didn't buy anything new. You know what we did the day before that? We didn't buy anything new. Want to guess what we did the day before that, and even the day before that? Yep. That's right. No new stuff buying.

This isn't even difficult in the least. I thought it might be more so. I had thought that maybe the kids would feel burdened by our compact. I thought I would maybe see something and feel deep regret that I wouldn't be able to purchase it. But, no. This is easy. It really is.

We have chosen this lifestyle as a challenge for the next year. We willingly decided to forgo new purchases and to find creative ways to get whatever we need through out the year. As the year progresses, we're finding it easier and easier to naturally think in the ways that living like this necessitates you do. We have to anticipate a little bit more. We have to look a little bit more.

Some of the good feelings derived by all of this self denial come in realizing that we don't have to be enslaved by our possessions or the pursuit of having more. It's freeing, if its chosen. We have chosen this. We also know that at the end of the year, if we'd like to go get something new, we easily can. We don't feel deprived.

When I have gone to thrift shops, I have noticed people who it seems are not there by choice. They are there because that's the only way they'll ever get anything. They are poor and need to shop there. They can't get their daughters kicky little striped outfits from Hannah Anderson, or an i-phone, or whatever the "in" thing is even if they wanted to. Their purchasing used things is not a fun life challenge that will help them realize the overwhelming consumer ethos that encompasses this country. It's not to evade any kind of external pressure to buy, buy, buy!!
It's because the only way they're going to get clothes on their backs and on their children's backs, is if they shop at Goodwill. That's not a free choice there. It's not bad--not being able to get anything at goodwill would be bad...But, for people who have nothing but used, slightly broken down, worn around the edges stuff, I can see how that could be dulling in this country of new, new, new, get, get, get. The pressures to be "in" are huge around here.

You know what I'm going to do later today? Not buy anything. You know what I'm going to do tomorrow? Not buy anything. You know what I'm going to do at any upcoming homeschooling conferences? Buy stuff! Ha! Fooled you!! You thought I wasn't, but I am.

Generally, we don't buy it.
Sometimes, we do...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Poll Results About Largest Environmental Concerns

As in previous poll results, I'm going to pretend that each vote actually represents 1,000 people. It has more impact that way. Not that the people who actually did vote in the poll don't matter--because you do. And now, your import is even more so in that you each represent 1,000 people!!

14,000 people voted in the poll, What Are the 2 Biggest Environmental Concerns?

There was a three-way tie for what was deemed the most critical environmental concern: 35% of you, 5,000 people, thought that a Clean Water Supply and Clean Oceans, Air Pollution, and Factory Farming (with its use of GMOs and antibiotics) were the most concerning.

Climate Change and Deforestation were both next in line with the greatest concern from 28% of you, 4,000 people.

14% of you, 2,000 people, thought that Urban Sprawl was the most egregious concern.

As with the highest vote getters of most concerning issues, the issues with the least votes also resulted in a three-way tie. 7%, or 1,000 people, thought that Toxic Waste, Nuclear Waste and Strip Mining were most worrisome.

No one cared AT ALL about Acid Rain. Well, at least no one thought it was one of the 2 biggest environmental concerns. It's really kind of a form of air pollution caused by various emissions.

This was kind of a difficult poll, wasn't it? Everything has such great impact on other issues. It's almost as if they are all equally important. We need the trees that are being cut down at such an alarming rate to continue to pump out oxygen and prevent erosion. We need a clean food supply, so that GMOs don't cross pollinate and kill pollinators like butterflies and bees. Do the powers-that-be realize that butterflies don't like that Monsanto crap?! We need clean water, and livable environments that support us and nature. We need places for water run-off to be absorbed and filtered and go back to the water supply instead of another strip mall with a Subway, Blockbuster or apartment building. We need to breathe.

Come on, powers-that-be. Enact some policies that effect how we do business here in America and around the world. Create policies that help us all preserve for our progeny what was given to all of us.

Come on, people. See where you can make changes that can make a difference. People start pollution. People can stop it.

Thanks for participating. Rock the vote!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Freecycle--Save an Object From Landfill

Do you guys all know about Freecycle? It is sort of like bartering, except you just give your stuff away without any expectation in return...Yep. And then, if you want something, and someone has posted an offering, you answer, and maybe they'll pick you and you'll get it. Easy peasy. Huh? Is this not clear? Let me start at the beginning.

Freecycle formed several years ago in Arizona and now has groups all over the world. The whole point of it is to give away stuff to people who want it and save it from filling up landfills. People post offerings to the freecycle group online, people answer the post and then the offerer chooses who they would like to have it. If you really need a goldenrod breadbox from the 70's, you can post a wanted post and someone may answer you and give it to you. This freecycle system is a great way to join up people who have stuff that would otherwise go to landfill with people who can really use your stuff.

We have given away: our screen door after we got a new one, a bicycle, crystal Irish coffee mugs (not my scene), a Krups bagel toaster, the Burley bicycle kids' trailer that we got at a bike swap and that still had a lot of life left in it.

We have received: a bunch of cut wood for our fireplace, a bicycle for my son, an upright freezer to store our grass-fed beef, a floor plant, a set of encyclopedias from the early 90's but still have accurate information about things like minerals and seeds etc.

There has been criticism with the original founders of Freecycle wanting to control what is really an autonomous, grassroots, local effort. Many people have broken away from Freecycle and have formed their own groups. Here is a Wikipedia article about how Freecycle got started and how it has had problems.

If you are interested in getting things that you can use, and in getting rid of things you can't, check and see if there's a freecycle, or freecycle-like group in your area.

I'm sure all of the overcrowded landfills will thank you.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Obama vs. Clinton Record in Senate: How Obama is Better

I am going to reprint this post from Grassroots Mom in its entirety from Daily Kos because it's important. It outlines how Obama gets bills passed and builds support for them and how Clinton does not. It shows what the two candidates care about, which is actually a lot of the same things, but it shows what they DO about it. Take a look at their records for yourself:

I Refuse to Buy into the Obama Hype (now a supporter)

Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 05:13:32 PM PST

The next President is going to have some MAJOR challenges.
I refuse to buy into the hype, on either side, but especially on that of Obama. However the "empty rhetoric" v. "history of accomplishments" arguments have prompted me to check it out on my own, not relying on any candidate's website, book, or worst of all supporters' diaries, like this one.

I went to the Library of Congress Website. The FACTS of what each did in the Senate last year sure surprised me. I'm sure they will surprise you, too. Whether you love or hate Hillary, you will be surprised. Whether you think Obama is the second coming of JFK or an inexperienced lightweight, you will surprised. Go check out the Library of Congress Website. After spending some time there, it will be clear that there is really only one candidate would is ready to be the next president, even better than Gore. If you don't want to spend an hour or two doing research, then I'll tell you what I discovered on the jump.

I looked up Obama and looked up Clinton. I looked at the bills that they both authored and introduced. Anyone who has been around politics, and is honest, realizes that there are a lot of reasons why a Senator votes one way or another on bills or misses votes. However an examination of the bills that each of these Senators cared enough about to author and introduce revealed much to me: what they care about, what their priorities are, how they tackle problems. And the list of co-sponsors showed something about how they lead, inspire and work with others. Finally, looking at which bills actually passed is pretty indicative of how effective each would be at getting things done.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, let's all be honest here. It is damn hard to get anything through Congress these days. And Obama and Clinton care about the same issues and have obviously worked together on a lot of legislation, whatever Sen. Clinton's campaign may imply. She is a frequent co-sponsor on his bills, and he on hers. They are both completely competent senators.

I started with Sen. Clinton.

I'm not a Hillary Hater, but I certainly didn't like her much either. I didn't like her DLC history; her votes on Iraq, Iran or the bankruptcy bill; her characterization of the years she spent as First Lady as "executive experience." Hillary Clinton is no Eleanor Roosevelt. Perhaps more like Lady Bird Johnson. Hillary claims to have brought us SCHIP (with a little help from Ted Kennedy). Lady Bird brought us Head Start as well as cleaner, nicer highways. Anyone 40 or older probably remembers when the nation's highways were basically disgusting garbage dumps lined with billboards. But no one thinks Lady Bird should have been president. Might as well argue for Barbara Bush because of her efforts on family literacy, or Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs.

Hillary Clinton does have a solid record in the Senate, however.

I came away from my research really knowing a lot more about what is important to Hillary in her heart: kids and their well being. My research changed my feeling about her significantly. About 40% of her bills dealt with health care and/or kids. As a mom with small kids, I like her passion for children's issues. But curiously, her big bill to deliver health care to every child, the one she lauds on her website, S.895 : "A bill to amend titles XIX and XXI of the Social Security Act to ensure that every child in the United States has access to affordable, quality health insurance coverage, and for other purposes" had not a single co-sponsor. Not one, according to the Library of Congress. Why is that? Is it a bad bill? Or is she not able to recruit support for her signature issue? Or did she just submit it simply to put in the hopper, so to speak, so she could claim she was working on it. I honestly don't know the answer, but I find it curious and suspicious that not even Ted Kennedy co-sponsored it. Its sister bill in the house, H.R. 1535, introduced by John Dingell has 42 co-sponsors. It's just weird. I honestly don't know what to make of it.

S.895 was major. But most of her other bills are much smaller in scale and scope — more targeted and more careful.

For example, she introduced one bill that offered tax credits for building owners who clean up lead paint. Which is a very good thing. And Obama is a co-sponsor. "S.1793 : A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax credit for property owners who remove lead-based paint hazards."

Obama's anti-lead bill (S. 1306) directed the Consumer Product Safety Commission to classify certain children's products containing lead as banned hazardous substances. He had another bill prohibitting the interstate transport of children's products containing lead. (S.2132) And Hillary co-sponsored each of these.

In other words, they both care about protecting children from lead.

The difference is in the scope and the approach.

Obama's bill shows how he thinks big: do everything we can to make sure that lead-painted Thomas the Tank Engine toys don't get into the hands and mouths of millions of toddlers in this country.

Or Hillary: encourage people by offering tax credits to clean up lead paint in old buildings. People have been talking about lead paint in old buildings hurting kids in living in inner cities, since, well when I was a kid — for decades. If it is still a big problem, is offering tax credits for clean up, i.e. scrape down the walls and repaint, the best way to protect kids from lead?

How many of you parents have lead paint problems? How many have (or had) toxic Thomas the Tank Engine Toys? They are everywhere. The local bookstore and kid's shoe store and the doctor's office and the preschool and the toystore all have train tables. There is nowhere you can go anymore with toddlers that doesn't have a Thomas the Tank Engine train table covered with toxic toys. But that's just my feeling.

Obama's bills risk pissing off the toy industry and the Chinese. Hillary's risks nothing.

A lot of Clinton's health bills focus on children. Or women. She introduced a billl for research in the causes of gestational diabetes, for more pediatric research (S.895) and a rural agriculture bill to get farm-fresh veggies into schools (S.1031).

Her bill dealing with the crisis in foreclosure is actually S.2114 : "A bill to amend the Truth in Lending Act, to provide for enhanced disclosures to consumers and enhanced regulation of mortgage brokers, and for other purposes." Again, no co-sponsors. Obama also introduced a bill in the face of the mortgage foreclosure crisis: S.1222 : "A bill to stop mortgage transactions which operate to promote fraud, risk, abuse, and under-development, and for other purposes." Sponsor: Sen Obama, Barack [IL] (introduced 4/25/2007), co-sponsored by Dick Durbin.

In her ads and speeches, Clinton claims that she's fighting to stop foreclosure while implying that Obama is empty rhetoric. Actually, Clinton is calling for "enhanced disclosures to consumers and enhanced regulation", while Obama's bill will "stop mortgage transactions which operate to promote fraud, risk, abuse, and under-development." After looking at the two bills, Obama's appears to be tougher, more directly addressing the problem.

Speaking of Obama, here's a list of some of his proposed legislation.

Four bills on energy including
• S.1151 : A bill to provide incentives to the auto industry to accelerate efforts to develop more energy-efficient vehicles to lessen dependence on oil;
•S.115 : A bill to suspend royalty relief, to repeal certain provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal certain tax incentives for the oil and gas industry; and •S.133 : A bill to promote the national security and stability of the economy of the United States by reducing the dependence of the United States on oil through the use of alternative fuels and new technology, and for other purposes.

Clinton had only one bill that I could find that addressed the same issue, S.701 : A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a temporary oil profit fee and to use the proceeds of the fee collected to provide a Strategic Energy Fund and expand certain energy tax incentives, and for other purposes.

Obama wants to "repeal certain tax incentives for the oil and gas industry". Clinton sees the answer in a "temporary oil profit fee" and to "expand certain energy tax incentives" for alternative energy. Obama's alternative energy bill (S.133) was co-sponsored by Harkin, Lugar and Salazar. Clinton's bill again had no co-sponsors.

On health care he introduced ten bills/amendments, including one amendment that passed: S.AMDT.1041 to S.1082 To improve the safety and efficacy of genetic tests. Other issues addressed in his proposed health care legislation were AIDS research (S.823 ), hospital report cards (S.692 — the V.A., and S.1824 — Medicare), better emergency care (S.1873), and drug price controls (S.2347).

Clinton's health care bills, for the most part, didn't impress me much, although she introduced many more bills in this area than Obama did:

S.CON.RES.63 : A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of the Congress regarding the need for additional research into the chronic neurological condition hydrocephalus, and for other purposes.
S.RES.176 : A resolution recognizing April 30, 2007, as "National Healthy Schools Day".
S.RES.222 : A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
S.201 : A bill to establish a grant program for individuals still suffering health effects as a result of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon.
S.907 : A bill to establish an Advisory Committee on Gestational Diabetes, to provide grants to better understand and reduce gestational diabetes, and for other purposes.
S.993 : A bill to improve pediatric research.
S.982 : A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for integration of mental health services and mental health treatment outreach teams, and for other purposes.
S.1065 : A bill to improve the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury in members and former members of the Armed Forces, to review and expand telehealth and telemental health programs of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
S.1075 : A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to expand access to contraceptive services for women and men under the Medicaid program, help low income women and couples prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce abortion, and for other purposes.
S.1343 : A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act with respect to prevention and treatment of diabetes, and for other purposes.
S.1712 : A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve newborn screening activities, and for other purposes.

and on and on. Plenty of these have plenty of co-sponsors. Obviously, Hillary Clinton really knows her stuff on the issues of health care. None of them passed, however. On Obama's side, one of his health care initiatives passed in the Senate, the aforementioned amendment to Kennedy's S.1082, the FDA Revitalization Act.

Truth be told, it was very depressing doing this research to see all these great ideas and how little actually gets done. Looking at the legislative history of Kennedy's bill is a good example. It finally passed but its sister bill in the House, H.R.2900, was the one that was finally enacted, and with it, Obama's amendment for safe and effective genetic testing. Clinton submitted two amendments to this bill, one of would have eliminated the sunsetting of pediatric data collection; the other would have begin the process to approve generic versions of complex and expensive drugs called biologics or biotech drugs. Neither were adopted.

Now let's look more closely at Obama.

I was blown away as I started going through his record. I've already mentioned his bills on health care and energy. In addition he had introduced bills on Iran, voting, veterans, global warming, campaign finance and lobbyists, Blackwater, global poverty, nuclear proliferation, and education.
On Iran: S.J.RES.23 : A joint resolution clarifying that the use of force against Iran is not authorized by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law.

On votingPassed out of Committee and now on the Senate Calendar for Feb. 22, 2008
S.453 : A bill to prohibit deceptive practices in Federal elections Please check this out! This is a great bill. We need this. I can't believe that this time voter intimidation is not already illegal.

On veterans and military personnel: S.1084 : A bill to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans;

On global warmingS.1324 : A bill to amend the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuel sold in the United States;S.1389 : A bill to authorize the National Science Foundation to establish a Climate Change Education Program; S.AMDT.599 to S.CON.RES.21 To add $200 million for Function 270 (Energy) for the demonstration and monitoring of carbon capture and sequestration technology by the Department of Energy. (This last one passed both the House and the Senate as part of the budget bill.)

On campaign finance and lobbyists S.2030 : A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require reporting relating to bundled contributions made by persons other than registered lobbyists; and S.AMDT.41 to S.1 To require lobbyists to disclose the candidates, leadership PACs, or political parties for whom they collect or arrange contributions, and the aggregate amount of the contributions collected or arranged.

On Blackwater S.2044 : A bill to provide procedures for the proper classification of employees and independent contractors, and for other purposes, and S.2147 : A bill to require accountability for contractors and contract personnel under Federal contracts, and for other purposes.

On global poverty S.2433 : A bill to require the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.

On global nuclear proliferation S.1977 : A bill to provide for sustained United States leadership in a cooperative global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, stop the spread of nuclear weapons and related material and technology, and support the responsible and peaceful use of nuclear technology.

I counted nine education bills, but it's getting late and I've got to get my kids ready for bed.

As I mentioned earlier, Clinton is a frequent co-sponsor on many of Obama's bills. So is Ted Kennedy. So are a number of Republicans.

Finally, Obama appears to have a better record last year in the Senate on getting his bills and amendments passed than does Clinton. I've listed everything that passed the Senate for each them at the end in boxes. But check out for yourself. I may have missed something.

In my eyes Obama is the superior choice in every way. He cares about more of the issues that matter to me. Kids and health care are important but so is the issue of global warming, on which Clinton introduced not a single bill last year.

Obama is a leader. With bigger majorities in Congress, much of his agenda should sail through. He can inspire this country to change course on so many things, from health care to global warming, where attitudes have to be changed first. I remember Bill Clinton's endless laundry lists of small, focus group approved initiatives. For those who say Hillary will not govern like Bill did, I respond that the people who were doing the market testing of his proposed policies were Dick Morris, of course, and Mark Penn, who is now running Hillary's campaign.

It's Obama for me! I just sent him $100. My first donation this election.

Yes, We Can!

Clinton's Successes:
S.694 : A bill to direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to reduce the incidence of child injury and death occurring inside or outside of light motor vehicles, and for other purposes. (This is currently in conference committee to reconcile difference with the House bill)
Passed in the Senate:
S.CON.RES.27 : A concurrent resolution supporting the goals and ideals of "National Purple Heart Recognition Day".
S.RES.21 : A resolution recognizing the uncommon valor of Wesley Autrey of New York, New York
S.RES.92 : A resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of soldiers of Israel held captive by Hamas and Hezbollah.
S.RES.141 : A resolution urging all member countries of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service who have yet to ratify the May 2006 amendments to the 1955 Bonn Accords to expedite the ratification process to allow for open access to the Holocaust archives located at Bad Arolsen, Germany.
S.RES.222 : A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
S.AMDT.666 to H.R.1591 To link award fees under Department of Homeland Security contracts to successful acquisition outcomes under such contracts.
S.AMDT.2047 to H.R.1585 To specify additional individuals eligible to transportation for survivors of deceased members of the Armed Forces to attend their burial ceremonies.
S.AMDT.2108 to H.R.1585 To require a report on the planning and implementation of the policy of the United States toward Darfur.
S.AMDT.2390 to H.R.2638 To require that all contracts of the Department of Homeland Security that provide award fees link such fees to successful acquisition outcomes.
S.AMDT.2474 to H.R.2638 To ensure that the Federal Protective Service has adequate personnel.
S.AMDT.2823 to H.R.3074 To require a report on plans to alleviate congestion and flight delays in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace.
S.AMDT.2917 to H.R.1585 To extend and enhance the authority for temporary lodging expenses for members of the Armed Forces in areas subject to a major disaster declaration or for installations experiencing a sudden increase in personnel levels.

Obama's Success:
S.AMDT.1041 to S.1082 To improve the safety and efficacy of genetic tests.
S.AMDT.3073 to H.R.1585 To provide for transparency and accountability in military and security contracting.
S.AMDT.3078 to H.R.1585 Relating to administrative separations of members of the Armed Forces for personality disorder.
S.AMDT.41 to S.1 To require lobbyists to disclose the candidates, leadership PACs, or political parties for whom they collect or arrange contributions, and the aggregate amount of the contributions collected or arranged.
S.AMDT.524 to S.CON.RES.21 To provide $100 million for the Summer Term Education Program supporting summer learning opportunities for low-income students in the early grades to lessen summer learning losses that contribute to the achievement gaps separating low-income students from their middle-class peers.
S.AMDT.599 to S.CON.RES.21 To add $200 million for Function 270 (Energy) for the demonstration and monitoring of carbon capture and sequestration technology by the Department of Energy.
S.AMDT.905 to S.761 To require the Director of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education to establish a program to recruit and provide mentors for women and underrepresented minorities who are interested in careers in mathematics, science, and engineering.
S.AMDT.923 to S.761 To expand the pipeline of individuals entering the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields to support United States innovation and competitiveness.
S.AMDT.924 to S.761 To establish summer term education programs.
S.AMDT.2519 to H.R.2638 To provide that one of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract in an amount greater than $5 million or to award a grant in excess of such amount unless the prospective contractor or grantee certifies in writing to the agency awarding the contract or grant that the contractor or grantee owes no past due Federal tax liability.
S.AMDT.2588 to H.R.976 To provide certain employment protections for family members who are caring for members of the Armed Forces recovering from illnesses and injuries incurred on active duty.
S.AMDT.2658 to H.R.2642 To provide that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract in an amount greater than $5,000,000 or to award a grant in excess of such amount unless the prospective contractor or grantee makes certain certifications regarding Federal tax liability.
S.AMDT.2692 to H.R.2764 To require a comprehensive nuclear threat reduction and security plan.
S.AMDT.2799 to H.R.3074 To provide that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract in an amount greater than $5,000,000 or to award a grant in excess of such amount unless the prospective contractor or grantee makes certain certifications regarding Federal tax liability.
S.AMDT.3137 to H.R.3222 To provide that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract in an amount greater than $5,000,000 or to award a grant in excess of such amount unless the prospective contractor or grantee makes certain certifications regarding Federal tax liability.
S.AMDT.3234 to H.R.3093 To provide that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract in an amount greater than $5,000,000 or to award a grant in excess of such amount unless the prospective contractor or grantee makes certain certifications regarding Federal tax liability.
S.AMDT.3331 to H.R.3043 To provide that none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract in an amount greater than $5,000,000 or to award a grant in excess of such amount unless the prospective contractor or grantee makes certain certifications regarding Federal tax liability.
Senate Resolutions Passed:
S.RES.133 : A resolution celebrating the life of Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson.
S.RES.268 : A resolution designating July 12, 2007, as "National Summer Learning Day".

Friday, February 22, 2008

Psst... Hey. Commere...

A lot of us feel that the environment is in trouble. But how exactly? Is it Climate Change, or Deforestation or Factory Farming with its Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

What do you think?

There's a poll to the left. Go vote for what you think are the two worst problems and we'll figure out what's most important to the readers at this blog. I'll look at the results in a few days and post them.


Rock the vote...

French Translation. Bon jour France!

I looked at my stat counter the other day, and noticed that someone from Ile-de-france, Paris, France clicked on my blog after a google search for Cheap Trick at Budokan. They then had it translated into French by google!


I feel like I should be more sophisticated than I am. I feel like this should be no big deal...but, I can't help it!! It's a HUGE deal!!! THIS IS SO COOL!!

I'm not buying anything new, so I have to amuse myself with life instead. Not that cyber space IS life, because it isn't. But, I am sitting here typing away and the kids are playing behind me with battling robots that they built from a k-nex set and that they're having invade a doll house. Since they are children that IS life. It works for us.

All I know is that I feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk. He yelled excitedly that he was famous after seeing himself in print in the phone directory.

"I've been translated!! I've been translated!!"

Pitiful, ne trouves-tu pas?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bill Clinton Backs Obama!!

Well, not really. Not in actuality, but in inference. See?

Back in 1991, good ol' Bill was campaigning for...


Go Obama! With Bill's support, you should really do well. Your campaign will certainly pick up steam, and...well, you'll for sure win lots of caucuses and primaries, and, uh... um... Most of the delegates will go for you because with Bill's support and his long time experience within the party and his long associations with the powers who shape... um... uh... you'll win the next 10 races. Oh... Wait a minute... OK. Maybe you'll win a few. At least you'll win South Carolina because Bill is so close to the people and he never puts his foot in his mouth... um... uh... he has a way with words because words are important... he can really rally the troops and, um his experience will certainly bring pressure to bear because... uh... OK.

Forget it. Never mind.

You're fine on your own Obama.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Political Polls!

These are interesting. These will make you bite your nails, if that's something you do when you get nervous. Maybe you eat sugar when you're nervous. Maybe you go shopping! Those are all bad habits. Just try to have faith that it will all work out, even if you are nervous.

Here, we see how Obama has passed up Clinton and it looks promising for him.
I should say LOOKED promising for him, because guess what? He won Wisconsin!! Woot!

Here's a poll for Ohio. Obama's closing the a snail's pace. Hopefully he can do it in Ohio just like he's done it in the last 9 contests. CORRECTION: 10 Obama won Hawaii too! Aloha Obama!

Texas is looking great. I'm sure Obama will win it there.

And here we come to a screeching halt in Pennsylvania. Hopefully, this will turn around.

Those are the numbers.

Recently, there's been a discussion about words. I think words do matter and I think Obama's facility with them matters a lot. The way he weaves words has been what has given all sorts of people a sense of hope and inspiration. How can anything ever change and grow and improve without those good feelings as a base? Obama has admitted to "borrowing" words from his friend the governor of New Jersey--with his permission I might add. Here's a quote from December 21st about his own electability,

"But you know in the end, don’t vote your fears. I’m stealing this line from my buddy (Massachusetts Gov.) Deval Patrick who stole a whole bunch of lines from me when he ran for the governorship, but it’s the right one, don’t vote your fears, vote your aspirations. Vote what you believe."

Although there is criticism--read that as an extreme reach--coming from the Clinton camp of Obama's words, accusing Obama of plagiarism, it just is not true. Words do matter and when the words you speak are true you can get support for your ideas. When the words you speak are false, people will eventually catch on...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hola Nicaragua! Hej Sweden!

Hello overseas visitors!

Como esta usted Nicargua? Estoy muy bien, gracias!

Hur star det till Sweden? Trevligt att rakas.

Hasta luego! Hej da, Adjo!

As a Lunch Bag or for Kitty Litter Removal...

That title got your attention, didn't it? Nice juxtaposition.

A while ago, I asked the wise people at in the Decluttering, Organizing & Simplifying sub-forum of the Mindful Home Management forum how in the world they get rid of kitty litter waste without using plastic bags. I know we shouldn't use them, and now that I'm not shopping very much at all, my supply has really dwindled. Whole Foods has recently pledged to phase them out soon. People know that plastic is no good. We all know that--it stays around for several years, or more, does it have a half-life of hundreds of years? I don't know, I just know that plastic is terrible, unless it's being used for removing kitty litter clumps or being formed into Playmobile characters. Playmobile rocks.

Some of the people (men are certainly welcome at's a great resource for everyone really) suggested I use a flushable kitty litter or a wheat based one or a newspaper based one or pine or something that is already more environmentally friendly in the first place. But, none of those choices will work for me with a 23 year old cat who hits the litter box only 80% of the time already. A radical change in her litter box niche would upset the ecological balance to the extent that I think her hit rate would drop to maybe 25% at the most. That's not good, but she has all of my sympathy and when I am the comparable age of 104 years old, I get to pee wherever and however I bloody well feel like. Nobody better have a problem with that either. Heads up, progeny.

Many people countered the flushing suggestion with the reminder that if you live on the west coast, sea otters are dying from toxoplasmosis found in sewage. Cats are the carriers of toxoplasmosis and periodically shed it in their feces. So DON'T flush away your kitty litter waste.

What to do?


Enter the bag that was once used for something else...

Behold the sprouted wheat bread bag from Trader Joe's!! Look at that plastic bread bag that could be used as a bag for something else!

I NEVER thought of that. I'm sure I'm dense and others of you HAVE thought of this. I think it is just brilliant that what I have always thought of as merely garbage is actually a supply of plastic bags that can be used over and over again.

Look at it. It's just ready to carry clumps of used kitty litter to the garbage can. Or maybe it wants to hold your lunch, which you should make for yourself any way as it's healthier than eating at some fast food joint, and can easily accommodate a grass-fed beef sandwich (not conventionally raised) and an organic apple--that sounds good...

Maybe you're going to go to a homeschooling conference somewhere. Maybe there will be a pool. I bet you could stuff a wet swimming suit in that bag before putting it in your suitcase for the long ride home. Couldn't you?

You could use all sorts of bread bags. You could use tortilla bags. You could use the plastic bags that your newspaper comes in. Or, you could use a bag from the phone directory that gets thrown in your driveway. This is a huge, for me, heretofore untapped resource. Which concerns me greatly because I bet there are all sorts of simple, easily changed things in my life that I could be doing for the betterment of my own family and the earth. How do I not know this easy, basic stuff?? When you know, you do, but how do I not know?

Enlighten me please. What else could I be doing, that maybe I'm not? Go ahead. Rattle off a few things that we all could do that would cumulatively end up making a big difference. I'll start, because I have ideas too, even if I DIDN'T know about the whole bread bag thing.

  1. Don't buy anything new. Ha!
  2. Where you can, take public transportation. Where you can't, try and bicycle as much as possible. Carpool as much as possible.
  3. Eat organic. Buy organic. Support local farmers.
  4. This a small one, but if EVERYBODY did it, it would make a difference. Use cloth to wrap gifts instead of wrapping paper or even reusable gift bags. There's a big push for this in Japan, and there are many beautiful and easy ways you can use cloth to wrap things.
Please share your ideas too! I bet you have some gems that we could all benefit from...from which we could all benefit. You know what I'm saying!

Monday, February 18, 2008

If We Don't Buy It, Then What Do We Do?!

Our homeschooling group is very active and we try to have a few holiday parties scattered throughout the year. Recently, we had a Valentine's Day Party. E., a friend of mine, agreed with A., another friend of mine, that they both like my blog. Thanks guys! I'm glad that you do. E. made the point that I'm not always on topic here. I have plenty of posts that don't have anything to do with not buying anything new. In fact, I realize that I have whole categories, don't I? Overseas Visitors. Politics. Polls. Nature. Internet. Vitamin C. Somehow in my mind it's all interrelated. It's all the positive correlate to NOT buying anything new. It is all the stuff that we DO do. If we don't buy it, then what do we do?

We go into the city to the museum of Science and Industry with Mom and Dad and Dad shows us stuff.

We see a DNA strand on the floor in front of the genetics section and realize it looks just like the macrame bracelets that we make!

We mock the Republicans...well, actually we mock the Republican powers-that-be who try to get our vote...

We go to the new Goodwill Store and eagerly await its opening!
And then it does open, and we do go and we check out everything and even get a cute dress for $4! If we wanted a computer monitor, we could get one for $4.99!

We could get a stair climber!
Or shoes!
Or clothes!
Or even a book--check it out kids!!
We photograph the trees covered with beautiful snow.
We go to a snow sculpting competition while Mom is home sick and we see a great dog.
And, we see snow sculptures:

Pretty good, aren't they?

Doesn't this giant penguin remind you of the Monty Python penguin on the telly? It's just there. What's it DOING there? Standing! I can SEE that!! My kids don't know about that yet, but Husband and I think it's pretty funny.

We go to a Chinese New Year celebration at a local community college. We wait for the festivities to start by practicing some trick photography...I mean, we magically shrink my daughter and my son photographs the result. Yeah that's it.
See how easily she can stand on my hand?

My son was also able to get the Queen's guards at Buckingham Palace to all line up and stand on his finger!!
That kid is magical, I tell you! He must only use his power for good...

We saw dancing, twirling, whooshing lions!

We play in the snow in our driveway.

We go sledding with the homeschooling group, and Dad meets us during his lunch and climbs the GIANT mountain of snow that has been plowed into a big pile!

We go to the homeschooling Valentine's Day party where we exchange homemade valentines and my daughter wears her kicky new dress from Goodwill!

We play Harry Potter where my daughter is Hermione Granger and reads junk mail, pretending it is mail she just received from an owl at Hogwarts.

We have a photo session with Mom where a certain kid starts cracking himself up by being as wiggly as he possibly can, which then infects his sister with the same silliness and a powerful fit of giggles.

And then, all of sudden, the world is slipping off its axis!!! The world is tilting!! We. Can't. Hold. On!!!! Aaaaaghhhhh!!

We don't buy it, but we do have fun!

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