Monday, July 30, 2007

I found a video today that I really liked. I found it here. It provides much insight about food production. Anyway, my family gets back tomorrow!! That means that I have to get the house clean before they arrive... that will be no easy task. After 5 weeks of tearing the house apart, I have a lot of cleaning to do. I will post more later. Go watch the video, it's short.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It was the best of times...

I have some sweet potatoes in the garden that really weren't looking very good. They were a light yellow and looked a step away from death for a long time. There was another sweet potato plant nearby that was thriving. I added compost from my bin to the ill looking plant and it livened right up. It's incredible to me how most people throw away some of the best fertilizers available in their organic waste. It makes me feel good when I make little discoveries like that.

Today I also witnessed the neighbor's cat catching a mouse out of my garden. Should I be happy that the mouse was caught, or apprehensive because I know that we have mice nearby? I should also apologize to our neighbor whose cat brought home a mouse to show off...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It was the best of times...

Over the last several months I have had many incidents with UTA buses (local public transportation group). After a couple of close calls with buses, I started calling and complaining when buses were illegally coming too close to me while I was doing my best to share the road. It is very scary to have the mirror of a bus pass within inches of your head traveling 30+ mph. I called and complained many times, but to no avail, nothing seemed to change. Last week a bus went out of its way to give me space while he was passing me. I figured it was only fair to call and give a compliment, as I had given complaints. For the first time, I got feedback from the call center. They called to let me know that they appreciated my feedback (maybe they didn't appreciate the negative feedback) and to let me know that the bus driver had been sent a letter praising his behavior. Great, I was glad to hear it. Then later in the week I ran into the bus again on my commute. This time the guy was waving at me and helping me get through the town safely. In the end we both made it through the city faster than we would have had we played leap-frog like we had in the past.

I learned long ago that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement. I like calling and giving compliments, it generally surprises them and hopefully encourages the behavior. The only problem is that it is difficult to find situations where I can positively reinforce drivers.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My mom says that if I want people to read my blog I would have to write something. I knew that, but I've been really busy. This is the first time in weeks I have been busy putting off the stuff that I really should be doing. The reason is that it is currently the "worst of times". My family has been away for about 4 weeks now and I've kept really busy to avoid spontaneous combustion. This morning was a good sign of how bad things are. I was riding into work and a fellow cyclist caught me talking out loud to myself. He didn't sneak up behind me, no, he was coming toward me, but I was so enthralled in the only audible communication I had participated in recently that I didn't realize he was coming. So anyway, I really miss my family. That also explains why I left that family post up for so long, I would visit my own blog to see the only pictures of my wife and kids I have seen in the last 4 weeks.

Anyway, I originally thought of this post as I was standing in line at Home Depot. I made lots of trips there recently. Most of them in my car because of time constraints. Most of them unnecessary because I forgot something or bought the wrong thing and I needed the part in order to have running water or electricity back in the house before the next day. All of them involved poor customer service and waiting in lines to make a purchase that I didn't really want to make. I would have preferred to use a local guy, but the two local shops in my home town have terrible hours to accommodate what I needed to get done. That was it, the worst of times, driving to a store within riding distance because I was in a hurry. Getting treated poorly to participate in a commerce that I didn't want to participate in. It leaves an empty feeling in my gut every time I shop in a big box store. I don't like it.

After getting home from one of my frustrating trips to a box store, I was looking out the kitchen window, just beyond the cabinets that I just finished installing, and I saw some birds outside. I started thinking of the work I've put into the garden. It's nothing spectacular, it grows primarily weeds and squash. Anyone can grow squash and the weeds didn't take too much work to get going, but I've recently noticed it attracting a large variety of birds. I have recently seen a humming bird hanging around... I don't know what attracts him, but he's there now, when he didn't used to be. I have also noticed a little bare spot of dirt where birds come to take dirt baths. There are constantly little dimples in the dirt where the birds have been bathing. I've also seen some new variety of birds that didn't used to visit my house, some of which are really pretty. This was the best of times. Seeing that my work attracts some of God's other creations. I don't put out food or anything for the birds, but my garden is organic and the worms plentiful (because I don't kill them with chemicals). The new birds were like a fruit of my labor. Well, I still miss my family, only two more weeks before they come back, but I have a lot left to do to stay busy so that I don't get bored. I may post some pictures of what I did when they get back with the camera.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bumper Sticker

Guns don't kill people, drivers on cell phones kill people.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I apologize in advance for the crick you're going to get in your neck looking at pictures. I am on dial-up today and don't want to wait another 20 minutes to download rotated pictures, and I'm not technologically advanced enough to rotate them here.

Here is Mugwump on my birthday near Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. He got soaked. I don't understand how kids can be so oblivious to cold! I guess it's only some kids; Sixpence won't set foot in the water.
A few days later, there was a low tide, so we went to another beach and realy enjoyed the sea life. We saw tiny crabs, moon snails, hermit crabs, clam spouts, and lots of seaweed. Sixpence was content just digging in the sand.
The day before the 4th of July, we hiked up to Franklin falls, out past North Bend. The boys had a great time; Mugwump hiked the whole trail by himself, even with lots of uphill. It was beautiful!
The boys had a good time swimming at Great Grandma's pool. Well, that's a lie. Mugwump had a blast. Sixpence screamed for the first 15 minutes, then tolerated it. He had fun for about 5 minutes.

Right now we're down in Ilwaco having fun at the beach and reminiscing about the good times we had in Astoria. We miss you, Sans!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I've been contemplating this post for awhile. Last week I expressed my distaste for the 4th of July. I have wanted to move on, but I have some thoughts that I just can't get out of my mind. I can't get any other ideas, so I'm going to share more thoughts on independence day.

First off, I want to make it known that I love the country that I live in and the freedoms we have. I am posting on the lack of independence not to bash the US, but to call attention to our hypocrisies in an attempt to encourage people to participate in increasing the liberties in our country and others.

When I think of independence I think of freedom, and the opportunity to act freely without oversight of others. The United States have NEVER been independent. Sure, we celebrate our independence from the King of England on the 4th of July. That is the day that American leaders declared that they wanted autonomy from British rule. True, our government is independent, but the people never have been.

At the time we declared independence from Great Britain, the economy of the Southern states were supported significantly by slavery. That is the antithesis of freedom. Sure the whites where independent from the rule of others, but were they really "free" if they depended on slavery to support their financial success? I would consider our early American ancestors enslaved to cheap labor at the expense of other humans. They weren't free, they depended on the slavery of others and were thus themselves enslaved.

Likewise, we are today enslaved by cheap goods that come to us at the expense of others' liberties. I think of the fourth of July when we are supposed to be celebrating our independence and freedom. We light of Chinese made fireworks. I actually stopped by a fireworks stand and asked if they had anything made in the US. They didn't know and had no idea why I would ask something so silly. They have cheap fireworks, what more could I want? I want to be free from the oppression of Chinese workers that made those fireworks so inexpensive.

Let's continue with the 4th of July, it's not all about fireworks, we also have picnics and bar-b-ques. Let's take a look at a fresh ear of corn that we bought at the store. It came from the US, surely it demonstrates our independence. Not exactly. The only reason that we can afford US produced corn is because it is heavily subsidized by the US government. So the corn seems inexpensive at the store because you pay for it on April 15th of every year. You remember the taxes Uncle Sam took from your paycheck, part of that money went to make corn affordable. What, you don't eat corn? If you pay taxes in the US, you still pay for it... That doesn't sound like independence to me. Additionally, the US subsidies of corn and other crops pushes down the cost on the world market, making it nearly impossible for other countries to sell their goods at a price competitive with the subsidized US prices. This keeps the poor countries impoverished and dependent on the mighty US dollar.

We also eat beef and chicken on the Fourth of July. They're generally fed corn that was subsidized to make it less expensive.

The "freedoms" and affluence of American society that much of the world looks up to is dependent on the oppression of countries around the world. Every time you purchase "inexpensive" goods at Wal-Mart or other large chain stores that import the vast majority of their goods from overseas, you are paying to oppress and enslave a fellow human being. The goods that clutter our houses are signs of our dependence on cheap foreign goods... our dependence on slavery (now we've shipped that overseas, along with many American jobs, but it's still slavery). From it's inception, our country and it's "prosperity" has been dependent on slavery. We are a sovereign country that is free from outside rule, but we are enslaved to the oppression of our fellow human beings.

There are certainly exceptions to this in the history of the United States. The Amish and the Puritans established communities that were independent and able to subside on their own goods. The Mormons, when they first migrated to Utah were independent. The Amish are the only group that I can think of that are still independent (if this is only a case of my ignorance, please enlighten me to other groups). But the average American makes fun of the Amish and their impoverished lifestyle exemplified by their horse and buggy. Americans are above that... No, I think that Americans are far below that.

Emily brought up the point of family and the Fourth of July. Independence day is a wonderful time to get together with family and spend time together. I love any time that I have to spend with my family and the 4th of July is no exception (except they were away this year). My disappointment is that my reliance on cheap goods makes it so children in other countries have to go work in sweat shops, breaking apart families and enslaving children. Forcing young and old alike to work long hours with little pay to support my need for cheap goods. I love my family, but it is time that we take a look outside of the United States... It's a big world out there that we are influencing.

How about that for a rant. I got it off my chest, now hopefully I will return to simple living and cycling as subjects rather than posts like this.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I hate the 4th of July

To begin I just want it to be known that I love this country and I love Independence day. It is the 4th of July that I dislike... a lot. I'll explain as the post proceeds.

I got a lot of good comments on my last post and I just want to clarify, because last post was a sort of precursor to today's topic. First off, I think it is OK to have "special" occasions, and I think it's great to celebrate a good cause. I just question why people go against their fundamental principles when they "celebrate". If the event is so "special" why don't we use it as an excuse to progress in our goal to live the life we want to live? Phil mentioned that he eats meat on weekends and that is how he separates things and remains a vegetarian the rest of the week. I like that. My wife and I only eat sweets on holidays... It started out that we only ate sweets on weekends, but then that was all we ate on weekends and it wasn't serving its purpose. I know that sweets aren't good for me and I know that I feel like crud when I eat too many sweets. Why to I sabotage my holidays by making those the occasions when I partake?

Anyway, I was going to talk about the Fourth of July. It's a day for BBQ, family get togethers and fireworks. I'm all for family get togethers, and I"m not completely against BBQ. Why do we celebrate the Fourth by blowing stuff up? It's probably a symbol of war and the fights we made for our independence. How many students today know what we celebrate on the Fourth of July? Surely some do. How many know how long we have been independent and the history behind our independence? I'm guessing that fewer students know things like this. If you ask someone what they are doing for the Fourth, how often will they say, "celebrating my independence"? How often will they say, "BBQ and fireworks". I'm guessing the latter is far more common.

In addition to the fact that many in the younger generations don't understand what we celebrate on the fourth, fireworks (to me) are a poor way of celebrating. First off, most of the fireworks that we buy come from China... So really we're celebrating our dependence on cheap Chinese goods. I suppose that's OK, but don't we do that with our weekly trip to Wal-Mart? Second off, we buy these firecrackers and proceed to blow them up. Not that I would expect you to do anything else with firecrackers, but why do we have to contribute to air pollution, noise pollution, and litter in celebrating the independence of our beautiful nation. When I lived at the beach we would do a beach clean up to celebrate the weekend after the 4th... It was disgusting and a total disgrace to find the litter all over the beach. Doesn't it seem more appropriate to celebrate the 4th by helping preserve this land that our fathers fought for?

Now I recognize the irony in my writing. I'm saying that you shouldn't let off fireworks for the 4th, yet you have every right to do that... This is a free country. I love that about this country. I am exercising my freedoms this year by writing a blog that expresses my distaste for the fourth of July. I will not be purchasing any fireworks this year (or ever). I will not be attending or watching on television any fireworks shows (although a better option, the fireworks still come from China and if nobody watches them, maybe we'll stop blowing stuff up for the Fourth). I will also be reading the Declaration of Independence on the morning of the Fourth before I tackle the chores of the day.

I hope that others will follow suit. Our independence isn't just another day off work. It is not something to be taken for granted. This is a day in history where some very courageous men sent a letter to the King saying that they wanted to be free from his rule. These men knew the consequences, and they were willing to fight and even die to have the freedoms that we now take for granted. I look around me at the apathy of my generation. Some may recognize that business now seems to have a bigger say in politics than a vote, but they are unwilling to make a fuss over it. The Fourth is a day to celebrate making a fuss in politics. That is what we celebrate on the Fourth and that is what will make our country strong.