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31 December, 2011

Resolution Grade

Earlier this year, I wrote some resolutions, and since I'm outta time, the moment has arrived to see whether I lived up to them. Realizing that I cannot remember what they were, there's a sense of doom, that they were just another resolution-grade list of things that never came to be.

Cut Back on Coffee. This one's easy. I was being facetious, since I'd just gotten an espresso maker and could cut the volume without decreasing caffeine, so this one doesn't count. If I got a grade, though, it would be bad, since I drink as much as ever and have lapsed on the espresso making. The only saving grace is that I kick in an extra buck every month at the work coffee club.
Grade: D-

Do it Myself. Again, not so good. I gushed all sorts of stuff about producing a meaningful amount of my own food and riding my bike, but didn't get farther than increasing how much produce I can and pickle. On the other hand, I did grow and preserve more than last year, built some things that could have been bought, and did a little bit of work on the truck.
Grade: C

Be a Thorn. The implied ending to this resolution was "in the side of The Man." This was more unusual before Occupy. And I did write letters, protest, donate money to an organization or two, and engage in some armchair activism whose ineffectiveness may fall short of pointlessness in the long search afterlife blog blog posts. I definitely could have done more, but at least this one is un-tinged with shame.
Grade: B

Spread the Love. Ask the ones who I love, and you'll find mixed success here. I did make a point of saying good things where in the past silence would have reigned.
Grade: B-

Stop Procrastinating. That depends on which aspect of my life is being considered. Some intentions remain mirages on a horizon. Others, I've made progress. Also, I have to admit to being half-hearted about this, because of course I am a pro crastinator, and enjoy drawing out certain things. 

Follow Through. Part of this grade is a judgement on fulfillment of the above, and on that it looks like maybe just on the plus side of mediocre. In the bigger picture, I'd like to say the situation is different, but it ain't. I get credit for merely entering this post.
Grade: C++

There we have it, a mixed bag, a shapeless blob of a record. The average is a C or so. By completing anything I have risen above the pack, or at least  onto the plus side of the normal distribution, and so grading on a curve, I benefit by a full letter grade. Once again, failing less badly than others is enough to shine in America. 

Final Grade: B

17 December, 2011

Card Carrying Member of KAOS

I written about radio before, and am starting to suspect that it's going to be an altar in the temple of my curmudgeonhood. At the coming of aural autonomy, my preference was cassettes, probably because they let me record other peoples' music (piracy was more labor intensive in those days, but for every hardcore 7-inch 33, there were an ungodly number of cassette copies), and because radio offerings sucked at the time.

Now, that's different. Partly because the same social outcasts' flat out refusal to be told No led to a wave of low power stations, many of which fizzled, but enough of which survived to get their DNA on the air, where it has replicated ever since. The airwaves of 1980s Virginia, badly infected with commercials or stuck in chronic classical, are banished to space, where aliens hearing them may decide that there are no signs of intelligent life.

Living in Olympia and working statewide, the radioscape around me offers not just a pretty diverse genus of public stations, but community operated broadcasts. From Spokane to Skagit, on down the road through Everett, Seattle, Olympia and Portland, volunteers give voice to their place. People playing things you'll never hear elsewhere, people getting a chance to express or explore something that matters mostly in that small patch of earth. To have a station that adds diversity to their community invigorates culture and Culture. 

The local identity and grass-roots operation of most community stations are also, I think, important for democracy. Radio broadcasts reach people beyond wi-fi hubs and fiber umbilicals. Transmitters not owned by Clear Channel can air views unfettered by corporate mores. And if the time comes, know that the revolution will be televised, but only in between commercials, and you'll get better news on the radio. Oddly, the elder media spent much time this Arab Spring fawning on the democracy facebook and youtube, but radio remains and effective and cheap tool for freedom lovers.

Not free, though. Which is why I am a member at KAOS, Olympia community radio. Because it's not just that the call letters are hands down the best in the nation (sorry, KBOO), or the discounts kicked back at me from local bidnesses--I really do want to make sure community radio stays on the air.

KAOS brings us Democracy Now and other shows that would not be broadcast otherwise. They have not just Native News, but a great 4 hour block of native programming on Sundays; is there another station like that? And I cannot count the number of times I've cooked dinner listening happily to View from the Shore or Chant Down Babylon. The last thing I hear driving away from Olympia is usually static-scratched Amy Goodman. I tune in at random other times and get introduced to music from around the world, some of it so new it's live, but some harvested in the early days, most of it efficacious and restorative. 

So yes, I am proud to be a Card Carrying Member of KAOS. Are you?

09 December, 2011

Taking Out the Garbage

A few weeks ago, the city dropped off the new trash can. Last year, some rats chewed a hole in the bottom of one, set up house, and were eventually relocated to the landfill. Maybe we called about it, or maybe it was just garbage can replacement week, but in any case, now there's this snazzy new receptacle that says I have a Waste Wise Home. I am wise about so few things that this makes me puff up with pride. 

But alas, I am a data junkie and a skeptic, so I have trouble accepting accolades without knowing I've earned them. A quick look on garbage day confirmed that for a block in either direction, there are only two or three of these little trash cans, so maybe I am generating less trash than a typical neighbor. (Rolling the tiny trash can back down to the house, my burgeoning sense of pride made up the difference in volume.)

I don't have reliable figures for how much garbage my neighbors produce, and I don't feel like going down the road with a scale to find out for sure, but the EPA reports that nationally, 4.3 pounds per person per day is the average. We Americans apparently make more trash than actual products. We may be the value-subtracted champions of the world. 
But compared to 30 years ago, we at least recycle more, an average of 34%, say EPA figures. This means that the average person only produces 2.9 pounds of outright garbage every day. More or less what we threw out 30 years ago, as it turns out, so we seem to have increased junk production to keep pace with the recycling fad.

I don't know how big or small a pile 2.9 pounds of garbage is, and estimates in the weight/volume conversion game vary. New Mexico cites a hefty 225 pounds per cubic yard, King County (where Seattle lives) lists 177 pounds per yard, and Honolulu a mere 100 pounds (ah...I remember the lighter garbage of the tropics). My Waste Wise can holds 20 gallons, which is about a tenth of the 202 gallons contained in a cubic yard, so a full load equals somewhere between 10 and 22.5 pounds.

Sounds hefty, but four people live in this house, and garbage pick-up happens bi-weekly, which means the weight of the full can must be divided by 56 to yield pounds/person/day. Run those numbers, and you get somewhere between 0.18 and 0.4 pounds/person/day. This is about 10% of the alleged average output. I have a little bit of a smug grin right now. 

How is it that my family can be an order of magnitude lower than average? A big factor is that we compost almost all of our food waste. Other than occasional fowl bones, it all goes out to the back corner the microbes and possum buffet. 
Another factor is what we remove from the garbage portion of our waste stream. Our recycling bin is about twice the volume of the trash can, and although I have no figures, the percentage that is recycled--by weight or volume--has to be well over 50%. The table below (also from EPA) shows paper, glass, metal, and plastics amounting to 54.5% of total output. Except for a small portion of plastic that is not recyclable, almost all of the weight in these categories gets recycled around here. 

Of the remaining categories, there are a few that never make it into a trash or recycling container. Olympia offers food and yard waste recycling, but I covet my biomass, and either compost it or feed it to the wild-ish area in back under the alders. Wood? I cannot remember there being an occasion for wood to be thrown out; trimmings and windfall stay in the yard (the occasional larger alder ends up as embers under salmon), old furniture ends up being sold or donated, and leftover lumber from projects either gets stashed for future smaller projects, or turned into kindling. Leather, rubber and textiles? Pretty unusual for them to reach the discard pile. 

What's left is mostly plastic. The un-recyclable lids of containers, plastic-coated paper, and packaging. Some of what any modern American brings into their house inevitably ends up as garbage. Lots of packaging has no secondary use. There are things that will never qualify as hand-me-downs. The best way to deal with these is just to avoid bringing them into the house in the first place. Minimal packaging is a criterion when I shop. By growing some of my own food, I eliminate a bit more, and one of the benefits of canning is that those jars can last forever (take it from an archaeologist), and each time I use one that's one less can inthe recycling bin. I really should start making beer again, so I can pull the same trick with bottles...yeah, that's it, making beer is good for the environment. 

So, that's the lowdown on garbage production at this residence. Well below average, but it does not take much effort. At some point in the future, landfills will be mined for the minerals and petroleum-based products they contain, but until then, it would benefit us all to aim low. 

How low? Think personal. By filling the garbage can 26 times, I am producing somewhere between 66 and 146 pounds of trash every year. The EPA's figures indicate most people are pumping out just over a half ton; Americans are getting fatter, but even that is way more than most people weigh. If everyone aimed to produce no more than their weight, we'd see an 80% or more reduction in trash going to landfills, which would benefit is all (except maybe those future garbage miners).

07 December, 2011


What the heck does this have to do with it? For that matter, what is it?

In the last month or so, I keep getting hits here from people searching "A. D. disorder." Being from a culture that worships many maladies and their neuropsychopharmacological treatments, I'm guessing that they're looking for attention deficit disorder, but are too close to the beginning of their journey of enlightenment to know what the A and D stand for. Or, they are themselves stricken, and cannot focus well enough to choose between acronym and full terminology.

To the latter, I apologize. My post A. D. Disorder has nothing to do with ADD or its frenetic sibling ADHD. It's a brief essay on calendars and social domination. Not what you were looking for at all, and maybe exacerbating your condition by throwing you off track in your quest for relevant information. At least I don't remember there being any places in that post to click off to somewhere else.

Blogs have become a long form these days. Twixt text and tweets, ADD may have moved from disorder to the new order. I used to think of myself as shiftless, unable to focus on anything big or time-consuming: I blog, and do not novelize. But now, cranking out posts with hundreds of words, stretching 8 or 10 paragraphs some times, I appear to be cured. My attention deficit still leaves some slack compared to the emerging norm, in which people you talk with glance don at a tiny screen every few seconds.

And now, I have lost many of the people who started this post. Many of the people who land on this site spend less than 10 seconds. Some, because of ADD. Others, paradoxically, because they maintain enough focus to quickly identify my irrelevancies and enough discipline to move on. Those who remain are the special few who somehow skipped the top few pages of google results and landed in my iconoclastic domain. I thank you all for having the patience and curiosity to land where you did not expect, but take the time to look around. 

Now, off with you. Find some other strange cul-de-sac of the internet to fritter away your time. 

Oh, but first, something completely different.

06 December, 2011

On "Fighting for Freedom"

I won't subject the general audience to a purely political rant here. But over at Mo Comment, there's a new post about how we should completely change the concept of "fighting for freedom," so often invoked as justification for war, but not much used at home, where our freedom lives.

The post is here.

01 December, 2011

Crawler Free

Zero hits on this and the subsidiary blogs today. Way better than 1 or 3 or 7, which seem to be the multiples of web crawler hits.