Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quote of the Week

Do you see at the very bottom of this blog? I always put quotes there. Ideas that I find inspiring. Sometimes I post silly things like Dan Quayle's assertion, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind." Yeah. That should read, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."


The point here is that I like to put a little something at the bottom of the page to spur thought. My sister, S., thought maybe I could also take quotes from readers. Brilliant! So, now on the left hand side, because there's not already too much crap there, you'll see a heading, Quote of the Week. And guess who it will be from? Can you guess? Go ahead, I'll wait.

Yes--that's right! From you guys!

What saying provokes thought for you? What daily affirmation a la Stuart Smalley, makes your spine shiver with the profundity of it? Who moves you--Einstein, Emerson, Gibran? What funny, yet startlingly cogent, thing has your kid said recently? What world leader said something so stupid it makes your head spin?


Whichever quote that I deem worthy, will be posted on the left hand side of the page for the week. Or, until I think to do this again. Maybe it will be weekly. I think it should be--that would be fun.

OK. Start loading up the comments. You can enter as much as you want.

You know what the prize is? Honor! Old fashioned recognition of a job well done.

I roll old school...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Free Designer Purses! Prada, Gucci

No, not really--fooled you! But, now that you're here, maybe we can talk.

This is a blog about not buying any new things for a year. We've mostly done it. And, you know what?! It's painless! Really! It is no big deal. It's easy to do and we don't feel deprived or like we're missing out. We also don't feel the pressure to keep up with everyone else's purchases.

Do you really need a designer purse? Wouldn't that cost hundreds or even thousands, if you were buying it? What could you get with all of that money instead?

Do you want to learn how to fly--how about flying lessons? Do you want to learn how to speak Italian or French? How about some language classes somewhere?

Do you know people who are having a really hard time of it? Maybe you would feel so good if you helped them. You could be like a superhero or something--that's a good use of money, isn't it?

Does a free designer purse make you feel like you'd be getting this fantastic, expensive thing and people would be impressed with the idea that you did spend hundreds or even thousands? Would you seem prettier, sexier, more powerful or better?

Sorry to fool you. There are no free purses here. However, now that you are here, maybe you'd like to look around and see what this place is all about. We're suggesting a new way to view how we relate to the things in our lives. Do our things serve us, or are we always in search for the next thing? Must we get the next thing? What if we don't?

Read, We're Going to What?!?! to see what The Compact, our promise to not purchase new things, is all about. Read, Wait...why are you doing this? to see what our thinking is. Watch the video, The Story of Stuff , to see how we all get our stuff and what the pressures are to buy even more stuff.

Black Friday--We Don't Buy It...

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy day of thankfulness in the full realization of everything we have. Wow. It's a lot, isn't it?

Here's my personal thankful list:

  • Husband. He is my partner, and confidante, and friend. Resident smart-ass too. I get a belly laugh from him almost every day--isn't that amazing? Also, he puts up with my idiosyncrasies--which can't be that easy to do.
  • Children. I've heard this before and I think it's true--they are my heart walking around in the world. I didn't know I could love as much as I do before I gave birth to my babies. My son is energetic and feeling and smart and funny and sweet. My daughter is energetic and feeling and smart and funny and sweet. Together, they are a dynamic duo that alternately delight, amaze and stupefy me. I love them!
  • Family. These are the people who brought me into the world and showed me how it works and showed me how to care. My Mom and Dad are amazing. I learn from them all of the time. Parents can always be teachers, can't they? My brother and sisters--also showed me about life and continue to be a source of learning for me. Plus, they love me. When my siblings and I get together, we can get each other laughing to the point of tears--silly stuff--explodes the heart, really.
  • Friends. Our friends are our second family and they fill our hearts. We learn from them, feel supported by them and enjoy camaraderie that comes in following slightly different paths than the norm. We can all be weirdos together and realize that it's all so normal after all.
  • Our Cat. Daisy is here and loving and involved with our family. When she's not napping, she's with us, visiting wherever we are. She is affectionate and is aware of our moods--she comforts us after boo-boos or hurt feelings. She is 23 years old (about 104 in human years). Every day she is here is a gift from her.
  • Our Comfort. I don't have it bad. I have it good. My husband has a good job and we're so grateful he has it and how it allows me to be with the kids and give them lessons and classes and books and museum visits and field trips, etc. We don't have to worry about bills. Others are having a harder time and we know that. It's not easy for lots of people.
  • Our Health. We are in good health. We feel comfortable almost all of the time. We sleep easily and have energy. We may get an occasional cold, and then it goes away quickly.
  • Good Food. I'm so glad I found the farming cooperative that we get our raw milk from. They are a group of wonderful farming families who produce clean, fresh, whole food. We know our milk from grass-fed cows is nutritious and healthful for us. Lots of people can not find such a source--we're lucky. We can go to any one of several grocery stores and get fresh vegetables and fruits. We have access to organic produce as well as conventional. We know that there are people in depressed, urban areas who have no access to grocery stores--they're not there. So, all they can get is cheap, unhealthy junk food. We're very grateful for our vegetables, and fruit and whole grain bread. It helps us to be healthy and we know that.
What is on your list? What are the things in your life, that if they were taken away from you would be like a nightmare? What's the most important to you?

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Riddle From My Daughter

My daughter asked me, "Why did male Egyptians do this?" and then she did that classic move of one arm in front of her and one in back, with her palm down in front and up behind, while moving her hands forwards and backwards. You know the look.

"I don't know. Why?" I asked her...

"To show off their muscles!!" she joyfully told me.

Good one, Daughter.

Let's all walk like Egyptians. But, before we do, maybe we should all take a good long look in the mirror and appreciate the condition of our hair. Keep that in mind as you watch this video...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Puppies in a Box!

There may be trouble in the world. We may be all fiddling around while Rome burns. But, look how cuuuute these puppies are!! So cuuuute!

My daughter would say that with a really high pitched squeal that she feels she must include in saying how cute anything is. She also recently heard lots of teenage girls ooooing and ahhhhing during my son's play at some of the cute characters and actions on-stage. It seems there is nothing more fascinating than a teenage girl for my girl. They are so cool. They wear earrings!

Enjoy the puppies and enjoy your day. Really. Everything is fine. Don't worry--nothing to see here! Move along! It's all OK!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Civics Quiz

I'm not surprised by the results of this quiz--the average score is 49%. On a personal note, the good news for me is that my score of 87% beat the college educators' average score of 55%. That bodes well for my homeschooled kids, don't you think? I know my shit...pardon my French--I mean, pardon my freedom language.

I also scored better than all of these people:

Americans Fail the Test of Civic Literacy

If there is any presidential speech that has captured a place in popular culture, it is the Gettysburg Address, seemingly recited by school children for decades. The truth is, however, Lincoln’s most memorable words are now remembered by very few.

Of the 2,508 Americans taking ISI’s civic literacy test, 71% fail. Nationwide, the average score on the test is only 49%. The vast majority cannot recognize the language of Lincoln’s famous speech.

The test contains 33 questions designed to measure knowledge of America’s founding principles, political history, international relations, and market economy.

While the questions vary in difficulty, most test basic knowledge. Six are borrowed from U.S. government naturalization exams that test knowledge expected of all new American citizens. Nine are taken from the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests that the U.S. Department of Education uses to assess high school seniors. Three are drawn from an “American History 101” exam posted online by Two were developed especially for this survey and the rest were drawn from ISI’s previous civic literacy tests.

The results reveal that Americans are alarmingly uninformed about our Constitution, the basic functions of our government, the key texts of our national history, and economic principles.

  • Less than half can name all three branches of the government.
  • Only 21% know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
  • Although Congress has voted twice in the last eight years to approve foreign wars, only 53% know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. Almost 40% incorrectly believe it belongs to the president.
  • Only 55% know that Congress shares authority over U.S. foreign policy with the president. Almost a quarter incorrectly believe Congress shares this power with the United Nations.
  • Only 27% know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.
  • Less than one in five know that the phrase “a wall of separation” between church and state comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson. Almost half incorrectly believe it can be found in the Constitution.

Americans from all age groups, income brackets, and political ideologies fail the test of civic literacy.

  • Americans age 25 to 34 score an average of 46% on the exam; Americans age 65 and over score 46%.
  • Americans earning an annual income between $30,000 and $50,000 score an average of 46%; Americans earning over $100,000 score 55%.
  • Liberals score an average of 49%; conservatives score 48%.
  • Americans who go to church once a week score an average of 48%; Americans who never go to church score 50%.
The Average Nationwide Grade on the Civic Literacy Test is an “F”
Americans nationwide fail the civic literacy test, scoring an average of 49%, or an “F.” This table shows the average score achieved by various groups.
Overall average
Mean score for all surveyed 49%
Score by age
18 to 24 47
25 to 34 46
35 to 44 49
45 to 64 52
65+ 46
Score by Gender
Male 52
Female 45
Score by Race/Ethnicity
White 51
Black 40
Hispanic 38
Asian 42
Multiracial 49
Other 42
Score by Marital Status
Married 51
Single 48
Divorced or separated 47
Almost 40% of Americans falsely believe the president has the power to declare war.
Score by Parental Status
Has one child or more 48%
Has no children 50
Score by Income
Less then $30,000 40
$30,000 to $50,000 46
$50,000 to $75,000 51
$75,000 to $100,000 55
$100,000+ 55
Score by Party Identification
Democrat 45
Republican 52
Independent 52
Other 46
Score by Political ideology
Liberal 49
Moderate 51
Conservative 48
Score by Military Service
Active or reserve 51
Never served 48
Score by Church Attendance
More than once a week 48
Once a week 48
Once or twice a month 49
Seldom 51
Never 50

Widespread ignorance of our nation’s history and institutions is a worrisome sign for our nation’s future. As we shall see, today’s Americans share the conviction of the Founding Fathers that civic education is important—and they are right in this conviction. Respondents who score in the top third in civic literacy, the survey shows, are more likely than those who score poorly on the test to participate in the civic life of their communities and country.

I missed four problems.

Do you know some basic facts about America's government and our history? Test your knowledge and take the Civics Quiz.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


My grandmother, my dad's mother, would give me her Amnesty International letters when she was done copying them, so that I could type them up and send them to whatever offensive, cruel dictator was torturing and keeping political prisoners. By shining a light on the injustice, it helped to apply the pressure of world condemnation and free hundreds of prisoners. It worked and probably still does...which brings me to my point.

I'm sad. I feel futile. Not completely futile, but I feel like there are those that care and those who don't and the ones who don't care outnumber the ones who do and we're in trouble. It wouldn't matter, if it didn't matter, but it does matter.

I've felt this way before. In the 80's I marched at nuclear freeze rallies in Chicago. While at school in Santa Fe, I was part of a peaceful blockade of Los Alamos and no bombs were built for about an hour and then we were all arrested. It was a small, small gesture, but it felt like we were doing something.

The blockade got me handcuffed (with those plastic tie thingies with the barbs that you put around Glad garbage bags and the like), fingerprinted, photographed, dressed in an orange jumper so if I made a break for it across the New Mexican desert, I would have been easily caught. My cell companion was a tiny lizard that scuttled across the floor. I didn't get to know the habits of a jail lizard because we were out, released to my friend's dad, in about 3 hours. It really wasn't hard time. This wasn't the march on Selma. It was just a protest and they arrested us college kids for obstructing traffic. We kind of felt like Arlo Gutherie in Alice's Restaurant where he was on the bench with the mother rapers and the father stabbers and the father rapers and he was asked, "What were you arrested for, Kid?" He told them he was busted for littering.

These days I write on my piddly little blog hoping to inspire others to cut back on what they don't need, what is getting us all into so much trouble--our American, absolutely out sized thirst for things. We must have, all the bloody time and it has created: a garbage gyre the size of Texas in the Pacific, pollution all over the world, slave labor and way under compensated labor all over the world, human rights abuses, oil consumption that has such a horrific effect--did you know that some greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for decades? So, the polluted atmosphere that we're seeing now is a result of what we did all of this last century and many hummers were there back then? What will we see 50 years from now?

The quest for things has a more personal scope as well as causing such havoc around the world. What are we doing when we're buying, throwing out, and quickly buying again? What holes are permanently filled by such actions? Is there some space that will get filled in by these things? Why the need to buy more? As a society we've been suckered and conned and many see American society and America as merely a capitalist enterprise. Our citizenship is to be expressed by our purchases (God Bless the USA!! t-shirts) instead of involvement and pressure to force change.

I don't think the fat cats are going to give it up willingly--I think we all have to get mad and make them change.

One of the comments to my I-can't-believe-Palin-doesn't-know-Africa's-a-continent-post (I later conceded that she probably did know after all...) was from someone who agreed with another angry poster that I was filled with hate and she wondered why everything had to be about politics. I'll tell you why. This is why:

  • The ice caps are melting because we create too much pollution.
  • The world is warming and creating erratic, unpredictable, damaging weather.
  • Greenland's, Alaska's, Europe's glaciers are all retreating--Europe's glaciers supply water to its citizens. Where will the water come from when these are gone?
  • Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is causing bees to die in many places around the world--are you going to hand pollinate fruit and vegetables and grain...who will? What will you and your family eat?
  • Our country has been torturing people--pouring water into faces and throats almost to the point of drowning (waterboarding). We've had special extradition--sending people to countries that torture so they will do that for us. These are people who've not had trials, nor have they been specifically charged. There's no proof of guilt for anything.
  • We've engaged in an unprovoked war that has killed almost one hundred thousand (some say more) innocent Iraqi civilians and has maimed tens of thousands of our men and women and killed over four thousand of our soldiers.
There are more things wrong, but that's enough to start being a little political, isn't it? How will these things change, if not through active citizens demanding it? Obama gave so much hope for so many--he gets it. He has announced that he will close Guantanamo. That's a start.

In the meantime, I'm sad. I don't do very much towards changing any of this. I try to inform as I learn things, and I try to share how our life experiment, The Compact, is going--maybe others will join us? And then I see what people are interested in--purchasing stuff, Hollywood gossip, popular culture. It's disheartening. I know others are worried about our shared future and care too, but my frustration comes in the realization that using cloth napkins is not going to halt the retreat of glaciers. I can wipe up spills in the kitchen with our old cloth diapers and it won't keep the oceans rising. If I buy used clothing from Goodwill, it doesn't stop slave labor making plastic spiders in China.

They're chopping down rain forests to plant palms for bio-diesel fuel production.

They're making "green" objects that you still don't really need--it will still be unnecessary consumption. People will then feel that they're saving the earth when they buy recycled paper napkins: post-consumer no less. Or, when they buy a giant hybrid SUV that gets maybe 18 mpg instead of 8 mpg. Go green!!

Where are the corporations in all of this? They exist for their own survival--not your's, not mine, not the earth's. They will not change without force. They will change if they think it's good for their bottom line.

What if they had to recycle all of their excessive packaging--what if they were responsible for that garbage? Do you think they would produce more, or less? There are such laws in Germany. They've reduced their waste by significant amounts. These were regulations passed by the government--industry didn't volunteer these changes.

And speaking of Germany, my grandmother told me back in my nuclear freeze days that I had the German term, Weltschmerz--world pain, basically. I did, and do. But, I'm not completely depressed. I have the immediacy of my life with my kids and husband and friends. I'm not thinking about the melting polar ice caps when I'm making faces with my daughter and son. I allow joy and hope in. I try to give it to them as well. Oh, but I wonder what my husband and I will leave for my kids and theirs, and theirs, and theirs. It matters, I think, and I'm a little sad about it all.

Oh well. Thanksgiving is coming soon. Let's just listen to some Arlo Guthrie now and you can imagine me as a 17 year old weltschmerz struck girl in a Santa Fe jail watching a scuttling lizard on the floor.

Lizards probably don't care about melting polar ice caps.

Part two...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Science Fiction Fans

My kids have recently been introduced to all of the campy, over-the-top, low production values of Dr. Who--the old and the most recent versions, both.

My kids were both absolutely psyched with the idea that I was going to get them up at 10:00 tonight and let them watch the show. Can I be clear here that my kids are morning people? Not 9ish or even 8ish. For years it has been 5:30 or 6:00 that they have gotten up--without an alarm. I don't begin to understand that kind of freakish behavior, but this is their natural rhythm. So, it was understood that they could go and rest in their rooms doing whatever they wanted and if they fell asleep I promised I would get them up. Promise.

May I also clarify the huge amount of trouble I'm going to be in with them in the morning when they realize that I tried to get them up and their eyes just continued to flutter under their eyelids as they were probably already in rem sleep? I. Could. Not. Get. Them. Up. Rag dolls the both of them. I was almost yelling in their ears.

"Wake up!", I said. "Do you want to go watch the show? Do you want to see the show? Do you want to get up and watch Dr. Who?? DO YOU??" Nothing.

I am in huge trouble. My kids will not understand their altered state and will not remember me jostling them and asking them to get up.

I HATE being in trouble.

Tomorrow, I Will Post...

I have a lot to say, and will say it tomorrow. Suffice it for now to say, I'm afraid that I'm just preaching to the choir here. And while I think it's great to share support for each other and share ideas and learn from one another--still, I think we are in DEEP SHIT and I don't think it's enough for everyone to continue to just do their own thing.

Rant coming tomorrow.

So, that's an up, right? Isn't this a fun blog? Aren't I just a sparkly ray of sunshine? Don't I just inspire you to greater feelings and thoughts and achievements in your own lives? Huh? Don't I?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Better Get on That

A month or so ago, a friend of mine asked me what I was doing for Christmas. "What do you mean?", I asked. I didn't understand the question. What she meant is what am I going to buy, and from where? I hadn't thought about it yet, but she was almost done with all of her shopping--some people are that organized. Isn't that amazing?!

My friend Unnamed admitted that several years she would buy her gifts on Christmas Eve! Her friends would call her up and see if she was headed out, and they'd join her and it would be a fun party shopping at the mall together. I think that this was waaaaay pre-kids. I don't think you could joyfully drag kids around a crowded mall on Christmas Eve and still have anything resembling the feeling of good will towards man. "God bless us all, everyone!" would be replaced with, "Walk faster, jive person in front of me! Do you see that opening in front of you to the left??? Go!!!! Go!!!" as you do a halting stutter step behind him for 50 feet.

Shouting in your head doesn't feel very good, does it?

Any way, if I start looking at used books on line, and get little trinkets at Goodwill here and there, I should be able to pull it off in time for Christmas.

My son has other ideas. He has recently seen a commercial for a remote controlled helicopter that has infrared lasers that temporarily knock out the signal of another helicopter, rendering it disabled. He hasn't quite worked out that you would have to get 2 helicopters in order to have the cool, perfectly executed dog fights that they show. Also, it costs just three easy payments of $29.95. Yeah, son, read that as $90. You can round up the nickel. So, 2 helicopters would cost $180. That's not ever gonna happen. Ever.

My daughter is wanting to add to her collection of Calico Critters. While they are cute, we are still trying to stay to The Compact, even for Christmas. Are there used cuddly critters somewhere? I need to check. There might be.

I would love to get a camera. I have a little point and shoot and I can't control anything. I used to have an Olympus OM I and I manually adjusted the shutter and the f stop and I made some great shots. Then, digital came in and we got a simple camera, and I never touched my nice camera again.

I think I could get a used camera that combines the best of both worlds, and it wouldn't require another one for me to have fun with it. Although, maybe it could have infrared lasers, 'cause that's cool. And, who doesn't want cool?

My husband told me the other day what he would like for Christmas, and then I promptly forgot. I have absolutely no idea. What was it? When you read this, Husband, please tell me again. OK?

What, gentle readers, are you getting for Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice/Yule and any other holiday that I have not listed?

You better get on that...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Um, Are We Really Going to Bail Out the Auto Industry?

So, are we? Detroit designs and manufactures crazy, huge, reckless and wasteful SUVs for years and then gas prices go through the roof (70's anyone? Must we keep learning the same lesson over and over, and then forget and make the same mistake over and over?!), and then people stop buying. "Oh no!", they say. "Our industry needs money to continue to remain competitive!" Yeah, no kidding! Did you NOT see the writing on the wall? Can't corporations look beyond the next quarter? Is there no foresight and vision?

And isn't business failure all part of the whole free market thing any way? Those that can not compete will make room for those that can, and the consumer will win out in the end. Since when are we propping up these giant corporations left and right?

Here's a term to think about:

Corporate Welfare

On the other hand, how many jobs will be lost if we allow the car companies to go under?

If we bail them out, are we going to make sure they have reasonable standards of MPG to meet? Can't they make something that gets 45 or 50 miles to the gallon? I bet they could if they had to.

If we bail them out, are we going to make sure they have their manufacturing plants here in the States to employ thousands?

If we bail them out, are we going to make sure there is a coordinated industry-wide effort to develop cars that work with alternative fuels? GM already made a great electric car--couldn't that be brought back?

What do you think about all of this? Yes or no on the bail out?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How to Be OK With Not Buying Anything New

You know what I think? I think there are going to be more and more people joining my family in deciding not to buy anything new...however, you may be joining us by necessity and not by choice. You may still want all sorts of new things: the latest i-pod, computer, phone, TV, stereo, CDs, clothes, purses, shoes, toys, game systems, cars, vacations, houses, furniture, exercise equipment and etc., etc., etc.... But, because of a recent lay-off or too much credit card debt or shortened work hours or continuous temporary status (so they don't have to pay benefits--is there downward loyalty anywhere any more?) you can no longer afford to buy as you once enjoyed.

Some enjoyed buying as sport. Some enjoyed the hunt of shopping as an expression of their worth and so, to themselves and outwardly to others, their value as a person.

I'm here to say welcome to all of you! Welcome! You may not believe this, but it is not at all bad to deny yourself things. It's OK. Really. It doesn't hurt, if you realize that things are to serve you and do not define you. You are not your things. You are not your fashion or style--although, aesthetics of all sorts do help explain us to each other. Still, your look is not you. It doesn't have to be your statement about who you are to the world.

Now that you can no longer afford to buy the latest thing and will have to learn to do without, you can learn all sorts of things about what is interesting and important to you in life and in the world.

You know what's free? Your library! Well, your taxes already paid for it, so you might as well go there and enjoy yourself. Go check out a DVD, some CDs, some fiction, some non-fiction--perhaps a book or two about intentional simplicity.

You know what else is free? The woods, or a park or a city street. Go explore, for free. Go somewhere you've never gone. Go somewhere you haven't been to in a while--with the simple intent of taking it in. Not to conquer or own or purchase or demand. Just go and be. It's OK.

Go to a museum on their free day and look with a set of new eyes. See things you've never seen before. Ask questions. Be curious. Explore.

Once you're stripped of your things, and your strong connection to them, you can feel who you are inside. You can look at others differently as well. Not the latest things around that person? Not the coolest shoes? Does it matter, really? Does it?

Has it ever really mattered?

We come to the earth naked and we leave naked and we involve ourselves with things for the journey in between. But, what if the things are all weighing us down because of our relationship to them? What if we could achieve a certain sense of lightness in our lives by no longer worrying about things?

Obviously if you're poor, the worry about things will include rudimentary shelter and food and clothing. What does it say about the rest of the people who are choosing to worry about things as much as poor people do who are suffering and just struggling to survive? Why would people choose that? Why is that valued? Why do we define ourselves and each other through our things?

What about you? What do you contribute to the world? What do you give to your family and friends and causes that you care about? Do you have causes that you care about? Do you know what you believe in? Do you know what's important to you once the things are gone?

Welcome to not buying. It will be OK.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Political Discussion in the Middle Ages...

I have had interesting political discussions over the last two years. It was fascinating and nerve wracking watching the roller coaster nature of the Democratic primaries and then the anxiety riddled general election. I LOVE politics. The discussions were very stimulating.

I wonder how it was long ago...

Actually, this youtube video shows what it was like--it's a reenactment of a transcript recently discovered under the floor of the main hall in Windsor Castle. It turns out the English peasants were a more learned people than we all realized. I wasn't taught this in school--who knew they were this sophisticated in Medieval England to question the status quo and dream up a new sense of collective to try to solve their problems?

If I were alive almost 1,000 years ago, I might have entered into political discussions such as these...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose

Edith Piaf sings La Vie en Rose.

Those eyes that makes kisses with mine
A laugh that loses itself on his mouth
Here is the untouched up picture
Of the man who belongs to me

When he takes me in his arms,
He talks to me very softly
I see La Vie en Rose

He says to me words of love
These words everyday
And this does something to me

He entered in my heart
A part of happiness
Of which I know the cause

It’s him for me. Me for him
In this life
He told me that, he swore it for life

And ever since I noticed that
I felt
My heart beating

Nights of love to no longer finishing
A great happiness takes its place
Sorrowful problems, phases,
Happy, happy until death

When he takes me in his arms,
He talks to me very softly
I see La Vie en Rose

He says to me words of love
These words everyday
And this does something to me

He entered in my heart
A part of happiness
Of which I know the cause

It’s you for me, me for you
In this life
He said that to me, swore it for life

And ever since I noticed that
I felt
My heart beating

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things...

The other day my son was riding in the car with my daughter and my husband and me. We were going to my son's strike party for his play. My daughter had committed some infraction against him on the way to the car--some crime, some heinous act that was surely worthy of full on retaliation... However, my son was cool and controlled, did not retaliate, and reported that fact to me along with what my daughter had done wrong.

"I'm not into revenge so much any more. I'm more into ratting people out." My son said.

My son has never seen any Edward G. Robinson movies or James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart...where'd he get, "ratting people out"?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sparking in the Dark--It's Not What You Think...

Do you guys know Robert Krampf? He has a traveling show about electricity where he shows the effects of a Tesla Coil. He also has these nifty, handy dandy experiments that he sends out every week that you can do at home with easily available household items.

During a recent playdate, my kids went into the bathroom with their friend A. and started ripping off lengths of masking tape. I put a blanket down at the bottom of the door to make sure it was as dark as it could be. Then, I heard gleeful shouts as they were making all sorts of sparks in there. Positive charge met negative charge and then whamo! Spark!

Who says science is boring? Who says kids have to sit down to learn? Who says kids can't do things for themselves?

Here is Robert Krampf's experiment as it was e-mailed to me. See what sparks you and your kids can make.

There is a link where you can sign up and get these experiments too. Happy science!

Robert Krampf's Experiment of the Week
Electric Tape

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The Hottest Part of the Flame video


Electric Tape

Greetings from our home at the beach. I spent today on the beach at Washington Oaks State Park, taping for the "Rock" video. Who would ever have thought that I would be producing and starring in rock videos? Of course, with my beard and shades, I have been told I look a bit like a member of ZZ Top. I also got quite a bit of footage for upcoming videos on energy and the food chain, as well as having lots of fun playing in the rocks. The tide was low, and the tide pools had lots of fish, snails, clams, limpets, and other fun creatures to watch and videotape.

I really wanted to use the Electric Tape experiment for this week's video, but the sparks did not show up enough on tape. Instead, this week's members video is on scientific observations for the hottest part of the flame. In science, observation is very important, but it is also important to interpret those observations to reach the right conclusion. It may surprise you to find out that the hottest part of the flame is not at the top.

After the recent news articles about producing x-rays with adhesive tape, I thought it would be fun to do an experiment that would help explain how it works. You will need:

- adhesive tape

- a very dark room

You can use just about any kind of adhesive tape for this experiment. Some will work better than others, but you should get visible flashes from all of them. Before you turn out the lights, pull a little of the tape away from the roll. It is much easier to do this when you can see what you are doing. You may want to fold the end of the tape over, to make a tab to hold onto.

Turn out the lights and get the room as dark as possible. Wait a minute or so, to let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and then look for sources of light that you can block. You may be surprised that so much light is coming into your "dark room." If you can't get the room dark enough, you may need to use a closet instead. The darker the room is, the easier it will be to see the results.

Once your eyes have adjusted and the room is very dark, you are ready to make some sparks. Hold the roll of tape in one hand. With the other hand, grasp the tab on the end of the tape. Watching the roll, quickly pull some tape from the roll. As you do this, you should see flashes of light coming from the tape as it pulls away from the roll.

Cool! Try it again. It is always a good idea to repeat experiments, especially the fun ones. Also, you don't have to worry about x-rays. That only happens in a vacuum.

What is happening? When you pull the tape from the roll (or from another surface), the rapidly stretched adhesive develops a strong positive charge at one end, and a strong negative charge at the other. This property, called triboluminescence, is also what causes the sparks that you see when you bite a wintergreen candy in a dark room. Electrons jump from the negative area to the positive area, producing a spark makes the flash.

In air, all you get is the spark, because the air slows the electrons, but in a vacuum, the electrons hit with enough speed to produce x-rays. Of course, now I want to know if biting a wintergreen candy in a vacuum also produces x-rays. I can see it now. X-ray machines powered by wintergreen candy. Boy, that would be a Lifesaver!

Have a wonder-filled week.


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Friday, November 14, 2008

A Little Dickens for My Little Dickens

My kids are both very good readers now. As an Unschooling mom who fully understood the theory that kids will learn what they need to know when they're ready to learn it, I still worried about the pace that my son was learning to read. He has a lively mind and was insulted by little books that he felt were babyish, when he was trying to read for himself. Learning to read was frustrating for him. He wanted to get to the story and not be stultified by the halting nature of his slow reading.

I have always read to my kids starting when they were little babies. We would all lie down on our backs and look up at the book I was holding above our faces, and I would read. My kids have always seen my husband reading and me reading and have always heard us talking about what we've read. They've even witnessed our dueling dictionary citations.

Sometimes my husband thinks he's right about a certain pronunciation or definition or origin of a word. I also think I'm right. So, we each grab a dictionary and see who is MORE right. Who has the FIRST definition? He and I are weird in so many ways...

What do you and your mate do for fun?

All this to say that my kids have been surrounded by words and readers all of their lives. It would be extraordinarily difficult to remain illiterate in such an environment. My kids now read themselves to bed every night. They read for an hour or so--because they want to. They love it!

When they were not readers yet, but word lovers, story lovers, I read to them every day and sometimes several times throughout the day. Their vocabulary was growing and their comprehension and their imaginations all while still not reading quite yet. But, they were developing an ear for language and an understanding for the flow of story and the arc of plot.

I read all sorts of things: wonderful picture books by Jan Brett and Maurice Sendak and others, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, poetry by A.A. Milne, Shel Silverstein, Winnie the Pooh, Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, The Trumpeter Swan, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I also read some things that would give them the story, but not all of the words yet of more meaty tomes.

One author who's particularly adept at presenting stories--especially with beautiful illustrations--is Marcia Williams. She shows us stories in a comic book format with some of the actual words of the original authors. You can get a sense of the rich language of Shakespeare or Dickens and also easily get the plot without getting muddled up in difficult language. It's not difficult language for me, but up until recently it would be for my kids.

I recently read them A Christmas Carol from Marcia Williams' book, Charles Dickens and Friends: Five Lively Retellings . And now they have a good sense of the story. They know what happens and then what happens next. Now, I'm going to read the full story from Dickens to them. They know what is happening and I think will be able to get into the rich language more easily.

We also have a couple of Shakespeare books and bible stories and Chaucer by Marcia Williams. Soon, we will move on to the real thing with those authors too.

I think this is a good approach for my kids. We all still have the shared pleasure of my reading to them, and we can move onto very rich literature that they may not be quite ready to read to themselves, but they will be able to appreciate the stories. The language will come later.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Think About Your Troubles

Somehow I find this Harry Nilsson song so comforting. The circle of life is infinite and will go on no matter what, and we're all a part of that...

Think About Your Troubles from the movie The Point.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do I Need a Haz Mat Suit for This? And Other Questions...

The other day, my son was trying to get a clean shirt off of the bar that used to hold worked on bikes in our laundry room and now holds drying clothes. We still haven't fixed our dryer. Which is OK, except I want to wash bedding and towels and not have them be stiff and rough. It's OK when they're drying outside on the line in warm weather--it's more than OK, it's very nice. But line drying inside during the winter isn't the same. We have to fix the dryer.

As my son struggled with the shirt and then finally was able to whip it down, he inadvertently smashed the shirt into a CFL bulb. He didn't know of any particular problem with that, but he told me what had happened right away. I looked into the laundry room and saw a scattering of tiny broken glass shards. Uh oh.

I had remembered that you need to leave the room and air it out for at least 15 minutes before trying to clean it all up. I had read a mention of mercury vapor somewhere. My son got worried, and thought he had poisoned his family. No, he hadn't. But, there is some concern involved with the clean up of mercury filled CFL bulbs.

I googled it and found this lengthy explanation:

What to Do if a Fluorescent Light Bulb Breaks

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are lighting more homes than ever before, and EPA is encouraging Americans to use and recycle them safely. Carefully recycling CFLs prevents the release of mercury into the environment and allows for the reuse of glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights.

EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for CFLs to ensure that the Agency presents the most up-to-date information for consumers and businesses. Maine's Department of Environmental Protection released a CFL breakage study report Exit EPA Disclaimer on February 25, 2008. EPA has conducted an initial review of this study and, as a result of this review, we have updated the CFL cleanup instructions below.

Pending the completion of a full review of the Maine study, EPA will determine whether additional changes to the cleanup recommendations are warranted. The agency plans to conduct its own study on CFLs after thorough review of the Maine study.

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal below. Please also read the information on this page about what never to do with a mercury spill.

Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

  • Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  • Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

  • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials

  • If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
  • You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
  • If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

  • Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

  • The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
  • Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

Doesn't that all sound very scary? Is this a huge health threat for my family? What does the 15 minutes of airing out give us, really? Why not 10 or 20? Are there residual bits of mercury lurking amidst the dust bunnies and kicked out granules of kitty litter? What are we playing at here? Why is there mercury in these bulbs? What does it do? Can we make them without the mercury?

My final question: Was it a huge health hazard for my husband as a little boy, when his chemist father would let him play with liquid mercury in his hands 'cause it's soooo cool?


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarah Palin Knows Africa a Continent!

I think my husband was right. Sarah Palin does know that Africa is a continent comprised of dozens of countries and is not a single country called "Africa".

The source of the story recently came out and it turns out he has supplied false information before. Additionally, I first saw the claim that Palin didn't know on Bill O'Reilly's show... Not that I watch Bill O'Reilly, but the clip was on Huffington Post.

Gosh. I guess I can't trust the veracity of stories on Fox. Huh. Go figure.

I'm sorry Sarah Palin. I'm sorry I doubted the extent of your knowledge.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chicken, Egg, Space, Matter...

My parents and my sister S. and brother-in-law T. came over to our house last night to see my son's last show of the play he was in. He was great, in his small role, and the other kids were as well. Very fun for all of us to see.

The last few times we've gotten together as a family, somehow we've all gotten onto the whole classic, "Which came first--the chicken or the egg?" argument. We are a divided family and have great fun explaining our positions to one another with passion. It's silly and unprovable--Dad!--but, we delight in sharing our reasoning and explaining it to one another.

My son loves this. He can not get enough of it. It is so stimulating for him to see most of the adults in his life going at it over theories and speculations and debating the relative merits of each side... It is energizing for him.

He himself has entered the fray, and tried some chicken on for size. My father is on the egg side. It's about evenly split. My mom abstains as she is a reasonable person and this is all ridiculous and a complete waste of time. I know, Mom. I'm sorry. But, your grandson loves it like the rest of us.

Last night my son threw this bomb after getting nowhere with the chicken/egg dichotomy. "Which came first, Space or Matter?"

There was a brief pause as we took it all in, looked at each other, and then people stated their various ideas.

My mom rolled her eyes.

Sorry, Mom...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Response to an Angry Reader

The other day, I wrote about the recent story of Palin not knowing the countries of NAFTA and not knowing that Africa is a continent and not a single country.

I got an angry response in the comment section:

Lea said...

Why are you so full of hate? Palin never did anything to you.
You need to give thought to the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt -
"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people."
I will not be reading your blog anymore because it appears that you ridicule and hate those that do not think as you do. What a sad thing to model for your children.

November 7, 2008 3:41 PM

My friend, Neo-agrarian, wrote a nice thing in my defense--thanks Neo-agrarian! I thought I should respond here too.

Lea, I'm sorry that you feel that I am hate-filled. I don't think I am hate-filled, but I am angry.

My husband thinks this is a ridiculous story about Palin--that there's no way she could have not known the countries in the NAFTA agreement, or that Africa is a continent and not a single country. He thinks that it is mean of me to repeat what he feels must be lies.

I think that would be mean too. How many lies did Obama confront (some of which are considered slurs to some because of incredible bigotry)? I thought it mean at the time:

Pals around with terrorists? (Did the FBI not do a background check?!?)

Kills babies?

Is a Socialist?

Wants to redistribute wealth?

Is not an American citizen?

Is really a Muslim? (Not a slur, but reprehensible to Fundamentalists who see this as only a Christian nation...)

Is unpatriotic?

The list goes on and on, but I'm tired.

I wonder, Lea, if you were outraged at the ad hominem attacks on Obama at the time. Were you? Did you feel that those were crazy ideas? Did you ask the people that espoused them "Why are you so full of hate?"

They were attacking him. They were doubting his decency.

I think it's quite possible that Palin was tired and misspoke. Maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt, as my husband suggests--there's no way she could not know that stuff. And yet...

If she really didn't know? How dare McCain so cynically choose someone so inherently flawed for the job of VP. Country first? Not by a long shot. His was a calculated choice to woo Clinton supporters and to energize his base of pro-lifers (and by that I mean the people who are against abortion. They're not at all pro- life in that many of them support all sorts of wars and capital punishment etc.).

If McCain wanted a talented, knowledgeable Republican woman to join him on the ticket he could have chosen Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

I think it's possible that Palin did not know. If that's the case, I don't think it a bit mean for me to be outraged. Really, you should be too. We all should. That a candidate would think we could all be so easily duped is insulting to all of us.

I make mistakes all of the time. I don't know all sorts of things. I can forgive people their foibles and inconsistencies. I do forgive people that. No one is perfect. However, when we elect people to run this giant country and deal with the world on our behalf, I want them to be a whole hell of a lot better than I am. I want them to be brilliant. I don't want them to try to appeal to Joe Six Pack or to use Joe the Plumber as a symbol--even though it turns out he's a liar, and a tax cheat and yet the McCain campaign continued to use him as a talking point. How indecent is that?

Our elected officials ideally will be smart, honest, and know how to get things done. I don't think Palin had any of those qualities.

Lea, of course you are entitled to your opinion. We can agree to disagree. But, I hope you can see what I am angry about and why.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Guess What My Kids Are Eating for Breakfast

Go ahead, guess. No, it's not eggs. Nope. Not oatmeal either--we had that the other day. No, they are sitting in front of the TV watching Animalia and eating...chocolate ice cream!

Have I lost my mind? No. I haven't.

First, I got out the peanut butter dip that I had made the other day and had them dip apple sections in. When they were done with that, I gave them each a small bowl of homemade chocolate ice cream.

We made the ice cream a couple of nights ago and it is filled with co-op farmer goodness. Well, not that it's filled with farmer--just the goodness they provide.

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Ice Cream

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup cocoa
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 cups raw cream
1 cup raw milk
a giant slosh of maple syrup (maybe 1/4 cup or more)

Note: Usually, I use raw honey in this recipe, but the honey has crystallized and I didn't feel like slowly melting it in a water bath. Maple syrup works well in its place and is full of manganese and zinc too.

Whisk everything together and make according to the ice cream maker's directions.

I must report that I've seen TONS of ice cream makers at Goodwill. You can have a fun addition to your diet and easily get the tools you need from a thrift store, or as always, on E-bay, or Craig's List.

This is a delicious, smooth ice cream. It has the raw ingredients that supply loads of enzymes. It has unpasteurized raw milk and raw cream which also supplies Vitamin C as well as easily assimilated minerals. The cocoa has anti-oxidants and the egg yolks supply an additional bit of protein.

It may look like goopy sweet junk food, slowly melting in the bowl, but in fact it is a fabulous boost of healthy nutrition for my kids. Plus, they get the treat of eating ice cream in the morning! How decadent can you be?!

The peanut butter dip is great too. Is that too boastful for me to say that? Well, it is great though!

Peanut Butter Dip

Giant glop of peanut butter--maybe a 1/4 cup or so
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. raw honey, or to taste
1 Tbsp raw milk, or enough to make a smooth, easily dipable consistency

Use as a dip for apples, grapes, celery (not that my kids would, but yours might). It tastes very close to caramel apples when you dip the apple in.

You can also fill whole grain pitas with the peanut butter goop. Or, you can spread it on whole grain English Muffins, or bagels.

It is nice to have on hand in the fridge.

The peanut butter supplies protein and the raw honey gives a boost of Vitamin B and is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal. Any time I can sweeten with raw honey, I do.

I am just sitting here having coffee. I better go get something to eat too. Hmmm. What will I go get?

Go ahead. Guess...

Friday, November 7, 2008

OK. I Can't Help Myself...

I know I said I was off of politics for a while. I did. But, I can not help myself. This is just too mind blowing for me not to comment on.

I homeschool my kids for various reasons, not the least of which is that I want them to learn things that I think they skip in school. For example, I think they still use the Mercator Projection Map rather than the Peters Projection Map and its equal area representation of the world. In terms of geography, not only do I want my kids to learn the countries, regions, continents of the world, I also want them to learn about the relative sizes of the countries.

The Mercator Map, that we're all so familiar with, shows Greenland as almost the same size of land mass as Africa...that's completely wrong. Greenland is much smaller. Africa is much bigger. There is a dilemma for cartographers as to how to accurately represent the world with the least distortion in size or shape when converting the globe to a two dimensional map. Distortion happens.

Cartographers have always corrected the distortion in favor of shape over size. Africa has this shape. Greenland has this shape and so on. But, the shapes have been the wrong size--completely out of proportion. The Peters Projection Map corrects that. It distorts in favor of size and the shapes get a little wonky. But, unless you're going to try and negotiate the coastline of any of the countries represented, maybe shape is not as important as size when considering the world. At least, many charities think that way and use the Peters map as does

So, I want my kids to see it too. That is why I homeschool--so my kids can learn about the world. It's important to know things. You know?

It has just come out that Sarah VP-wanna-be Palin...are you ready for this? I almost can't type it, it is so appalling. OK. Here I go. Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent and not a country!! I wish they were freakin' kidding us, but they're not. SHE DIDN'T KNOW!!

Oh. My. God.

Having heard this about Sarah Palin made me curious about my own Peters Projection Map loving kids. This exchange between me and my 8 year old daughter happened a couple of minutes ago:

Me to my daughter,

"Is Africa just a country, or is it a continent with lots of countries?"

My daughter to me,

"It's a continent with lots of countries."

Yep. You betcha. You got that right, daughter.

Thank you American electorate. Thank you for voting for Obama/Biden who both know that Africa is a gigantic continent with several countries and is the cradle of humanity. Thank you for voting for reason and hope instead of ignorance and hate.

OK. Now no more political posts...I think. At least until the next mind blowing revelation.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Poem From My Daughter

Recently, I gave my daughter a book of poetry for kids (used--got it at Half Price Books). There are short poems from many different writers and there are cute, whimsical illustrations.

My daughter has always liked words and sounds and patterns. She's been enjoying this book a lot.

So, today she came up to me and said,

I want a Penny,
I want a Dime.
I want a little thing
That is all mine.

I asked her where she got that cute poem. "From my brain!" she reported enthusiastically.

I love when my kids get things from their brains!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Won!! But, I Don't Want to Talk About It...

Obama won! He is our President Elect and on January 20th we will all welcome in a new way to deal with our problems and with the world. It is thrilling and reassuring to think that America voted for such a man as Barack Obama. He is brilliant and we are all very lucky he focused his attention on serving all of us. He could have chosen a very different, smoother path.

But, you know what? I'm tired. I'm tired of politics. I'm tired of fights. I'm tired of worry. I'm tired of anxiety. I want to just trust in Obama and let him handle it all and not pay close attention and just politically coast through the next couple of years. "It will all be good.", is what I want to say. And yet...

I voted for Obama because I thought he could lead us out of this impossible morass that Bush drove us into. I cared about the issues facing us all and still do. So, I can't really let go of that. The issues are still there. I'm hopeful that Obama's policy positions will lead us towards better times, and better relationships. However, people still need to be vigilant--it doesn't matter that it's Barack Obama leading the charge. We all still need to be there behind him, watching him, urging him on, voicing contention, voicing agreement--Right On!

After 8 years of Bush, we especially need the next president to know that all of the trashing of the constitution needs to stop and be rolled back. I know Obama believes this too, but we The People need to make sure it happens. That only happens when the electorate is awake and paying attention. Except for me...

I'm taking a vacation from blogging about politics. I'm taking a break. I'm not going to talk about Obama's appointments. I'm not going to talk about the partisan fighting that will come. I am at the end of my rope here. I'll still pay attention in my own way, but I can't write about it any more. At least, not for a while.

Until I get so enraged or elated about something, in which case, I'll post about it tout de suite.

Congratulations, President Obama! Well done. I'm very proud of all of us right now.

Yes we can!
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