Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2.5 Weeks Left, People.

Sorting through all the S.W.A.G. from the Cap 'n' Gown BBQ this afternoon makes me wonder what being an alumnus is all about. I was excited to see a biodegradable ("naturally biodegrades over 1-5 years in a properly managed landfill") coffee mug, and I gather a graduate should be environmentally conscious and on-the-go. Then I noticed the plastic bag the biodegradable coffee mug came in, so maybe they don't expect us to be too aware. The "ST. NORBERT COLLEGE ALUMNI" window decal implies that I will have a window, whether vehicular or stationary, to call my own. The item I'm not so sure about could either be a paperweight, candle holder or coaster. Or it could light up and start buzzing, letting me know a table is ready for me at Applebee's. And the items of the night: my cap and my gown, complete with the white tassel for my BA, and my study abroad sash, featuring three stripes of green, white and red. It's for real, people. I'm graduating.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

In honor of Ruby Tuesday:

Pancakes and coffee in my Edgewood travel else would I survive Tuesday 8 AMs?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

finishing up

Alright, rounded off Earth Week by (unintentionally, but whatever) going off the grid: no computer or phone for me. Friday was for saving water (shorter shower with cooler water, no water bottles, laundry in energy efficient machine) and Saturday/Sunday were a kind of Pay It Forward/Sabbath Day (pick up trash outside, take a nap).

The Darjeeling LimitedThe ItalianI checked out The Italian from the library the other day without even reading the back of the box. It really has nothing to do with Italy or Italians, and it's actually in Russian, but I liked it.

I also got The Darjeeling Limited (again didn't read the summary on the back), but Adrian Brody has a way with me.


Only three weeks left here. Dear Lord, please help me not go crazy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Week: Power Down

Happy Earth Day!

New challenge of the day: Reduce energy use. Simply put, turn off lights when you leave the room, unplug appliances you aren't using, keep the AC and heat off, etc. If you want a challenge, you can also give up TV, computers, cooking...basically shut off your electricity.

Since the power cord for my laptop is broken, I have no choice but to limit my computer usage to when I am at work. Also, I'm not feeling so hot, meaning I'd much rather turn the lights out and go to bed than stay up and use electricity. Hmmm...sounds like the universe is conspiring to make me save energy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Week: Eat Food

I've realized that the way I'm setting these days up, my use of No sounds a little, in the name of sociology, I'm putting a positive spin on them:

Sunday: Conserve
Monday: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Tuesday: Walk, Bike, Jog
Wednesday: Eat Local, Seasonal, or otherwise Eco-friendly Food

Since I've been living off leftovers from Easter, a wedding shower, and a poetry reading I haven't gone grocery shopping for some time and I don't plan on going for a while yet. I'd say leftovers are pretty environmental--Reuse and Recycle, right? We're growing a garden at home this summer, so I'll get my fill of seasonal and local food then, and I cut down my meat consumption a lot (I went meatless for about three months before breaking down and binging but I made it to a healthy balance and try to stick to local meat).

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating LocallyI also started reading Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, which discusses the Western SUV diet--meaning even if you don't own a car, your food has probably traveled between 1,500 and 2,500 miles to get to your table. Authors Smith and Mackinnon decided to stick to a 100-mile diet for a year; since they live in Vancouver, this meant tropical fruits out and cabbage in.

Food, Inc.Why give up the luxury of food from literally all over the world? For one, if you buy your food locally, you know you aren't supporting slavery. You know who made the food you will be putting into your body and that there aren't 15 unidentified chemicals, preservatives, additives, dyes, extra get the idea. Interested in the food industry? Check out PBS tonight at 9 or Friday at 10 to watch Food, Inc., a documentary showing why eating locally, seasonally and sustainably is important for more than just the planet.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earth Week: Burn Calories, Not Fossil Fuel

Day Three: No Mechanized Travel (car, train, plane, elevator...) plus No Trash & No Consumption

An easy one for me seeing as I have no car, no $ to buy a car/plane ticket/train ticket/etc, and live on the first floor of my building, negating the temptation for an elevator. I guess since I've already read No Impact Man, I've already consciously thought about my environmental impact so a lot of these changes aren't surprises.

Still, if I want to go to the library across the bridge (and I do, since I get more work done there), I walk or take my bike even if Andrea could give me a ride. I use the stairs to get to work, on the third floor of the library (mostly because it dings loudly when you arrive at your floor, signaling to the rest of the semi-quiet library, "Attention! Lazy slob arriving!").

More friendly travel ideas:

-Bike to work (even if you only do it a couple times each week), especially if you work less than two miles away from your house.
-Use public transportation, if it's available. The sad thing about America is public transportation has a negative stigma. Another reason I miss Europe, even with all the complaints (see: stinky Romans, lack of personal space, donne vecchie).
-Run errands all at once, instead of making several small trips.

I should confess: I will be cheating in majors ways later this week when Mom comes to pick me up to go home in a motorized vehicle, then takes me to Best Buy so I can buy a new power cord for my laptop. Hopefully I can at least recycle the dead one, otherwise that means I'll have traveled, consumed and made trash within the span of several hours. Sorry, planet.

Dress Your Family In Corduroy And DenimMe Talk Pretty One DayIn non-Earth Week news, my latest author binge is David Sedaris. I'm thoroughly convinced my attention span is depleting as short stories seem to be the only thing I can read lately. Sedaris holds my attention, though, judging by the way I powered through Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim this weekend.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Week: Waste Not, Want Not

Today, along with No Consumption from yesterday, is No Trash day. The idea is to see if wasting less improves life. So far I've thrown away a used tissue, a cotton ball, a granola bar wrapper and an empty tube of toothpaste. I'm getting the hang of it, though, with my recycled water jar (used to be a spaghetti jar) and recycled tote bag (used to be two t-shirts).

A big challenge today is few items are made with environmentally-conscious packaging--so if I want a granola bar, I have to make trash. Making homemade granola would sidestep this. Or--and if you are a business person, a light bulb just went on above your head--we find a way to make our packaging eco-friendly. The ice cream cone is a perfect example--all parts are used, there is no container to throw away. So do we wrap all our snack foods in waffle cones? Not quite. The best course of action is to stop buying these snack foods, the disposable, one-time use, on-the-go type. Not only do they waste a lot (in both the production and consumption phase), they are generally unhealthy (even the health foods--check out all the preservatives, additives, and non-food in those!). BUT, I do have to give a nod to Sun Chips. True to their word, they have created a chip bag that decomposes within 14 or so weeks. We're not going to stop businesses from creating their product, but we can influence them to create friendlier products.

More ideas until all packaging is decomposable:

-Bring reusable bags to the grocery store so you don't have to use plastic bags (in some stores bags cost extra money so it's in everyone's best interest to bring their own).
-Steer clear of products in plastic, cardboard, Styrofoam, fresh fruit and vegetables instead! Even better, buy them from a farmer's market instead of the grocery store.
-Cut up old t-shirts for rags and napkins instead of using paper towels.
-Bring a reusable mug/thermos to get your morning coffee.
-Use both sides of the paper (print double-sided and write on the back of scrap paper).
-Give people experiences (massages, concerts, sporting events) as gifts instead of things needing lots of wrapping paper.

What are we coming to?

What are we coming to?

Here, No Impact Man shares why Earth Week is about more than saving the planet--it's about questioning if our current lifestyle really makes us any happier.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Week: Less is More

Today marks the start of Earth Week, the extended version of Earth Day (which falls on Thursday). Because I have no legitimate reason not to (and okay, I'm actually an environmentally-conscious person), I've decided to join others across the nation (globe? Is Earth Week celebrated worldwide?) for a No Impact Earth Week, ala Colin Beavan/No Impact Man.

Each day will feature a new step towards No Impact, building on from the day before. Today, Day One, focuses on consumption. My goal: Live a fuller and happier life by buying less stuff. Done. Didn't buy anything new today. The challenge will be extending that for the rest of the week, but I'm not a regular buyer of things, so I'm not too worried.

If I were to need something, my alternate choices are to borrow, buy secondhand, make whatever it is I need myself, and in absolute need to buy cases, buy something green (meaning it's made from recycled materials or using renewable energy, etc).

I did recently sew a tote bag using some hand-me-down shirts (thanks, brother!), so I'm feeling pretty well-equipped for the challenge of not buying things.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fresh Poetry!

Finally wrote this last night, after thinking about writing it for a few weeks. As Dad and I were leaving Madison after dropping off Bailey on Easter Monday, this actually happened.

When My Dad Doesn’t Agree with the Garmin and Dave Matthews is on the Radio.

Take next right on Brooks Street
Take these chances
Turn right
Place them in a box until a
Lights down, you up and die

Take next right on Howard Street
Driving in on this highway
All these cars
Turn right

People in every direction
No words exchanged

When all the little ants are marching
Take the next exit to Washington Street
we all do it the same
we all do it the same way

Take exit
Loose end, loose end, cut, cut
On the fence, could not
Cut, cut, cut, cut

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

If we're not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn't settle for junk food. -Sally Edwards

No classes today due to academic advisement = sleeping in, feeling strange that I'm not at work right now, eating lots of banana pancakes and watching this TED talk by Jamie Oliver. If you have 20 minutes, check it out. If you don't, at least visit the link and check out the petition on the right sidebar. I don't see why anyone wouldn't support Jamie's work/wish, to eliminate obesity through education and information.

Find more information about Jamie's Food Revolution at his website, and check out his show Fridays at 8 on ABC (or watch them online). At the very least, you have to admit the guy's got style.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's ManifestoMichael Pollan is another man dedicated to the cause of eating real food. You may have heard about his book, In Defense of Food, which basically reminds us to eat food, not processed items parading as food.

All this writing is making me hungry...I think I'll make an easy favorite: spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and olive oil). Buon appetito!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Read Dave Eggers: Feel Smarter, Help People, Look Cooler, Etc.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusAlright, this will be my last post about Dave Eggers for a little while. I just finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius about a week ago (Thanks for the reading suggestion, Elizabeth!) In it, he writes about his childhood/young adult life. It's hilarious, a little meta-fiction and crazy. Mostly because he has some of the same thoughts I've had about myself, my writing, etc.

In his discussion about self-obsession, for example, he categorizes it two ways: inward obsession and outward obsession: "If you're not self-obsessed you're probably boring. The best sort of self-obsessed person isn't outwardly so. But they're doing something more public than not, making sure people know that they're doing it, or will know about it sooner or later."

I agree. I'm clearly self-obsessed, hello I have a blog to write about me, but a lot of times I disguise my obsession by talking about other more important things (while at the same time talking about myself).

Oh yeah, shout out to Mom: this is the book I told you to read when I was home for Easter.


ZeitounIn his most recent book, Eggers writes the story of the Zeitoun family before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. Similar to What is the What (see previous post describing it here), Zeitoun is fiction and nonfiction at the same time. Another similarity: both books gave birth to their own foundations, the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation (builds schools in southern Sudan) and the Zeitoun Foundation (aids in the rebuilding of New Orleans and promotes respect for human rights) and proceeds from each book go to these foundations. Sweet.

[Proceeds from this blog go to the Help Rachel Pay Tuition Foundation. Dang. Hopefully someday my bank account and writing hobby with get along with each other and I can fund something other than Ramen and Bananas for Every Meal.]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Don't Let Mother Nature Ruin Your Day, Let Slavery.

It's amazing how many times this year I've wondered why I wasn't told something earlier, or why I was unaware of events that should appear in the news in some form or another. I've come to realize, though, some information you need to intentionally seek out to learn anything about it...which means I have become obsessed with research. I hate not knowing things that I should know, or that people in general should know.

That being said: Stop buying chocolate.

Not all chocolate, just the chocolate that relies on slavery. Yes, slavery. Okay, maybe everyone else already knew this. Did you? If you did, you should have told me. But if you didn't know, most mainstream chocolate producers rely on slave labor for their cocoa beans. I knew modern day slavery existed, even in America, but I guess I never really thought about what products I was buying that contributed to this slavery.

This website raises awareness about slave labor used for chocolate production. There's a lot of information out there, and if you are confused or shocked by this I suggest checking out some of the news articles for a brief background. These slaves--usually young boys from the Ivory Coast--don't even know what chocolate tastes like.

Then check this list of Slave-Free Chocolate (generally Fair Trade or organic) and decide that from now on, you will only buy these kinds. Notice that all the big ones (Nestle, Hershey's, Mars...) aren't on the list? Yep, heartbreaking, I know.

I realize chocolate is not the only product fueled by slave labor (coffee is another), so be prepared because I plan on letting you know what else is as I learn more.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

domani è già qui [tomorrow is already here]

Today is the one year anniversary of the L'Aquila Earthquake. Since then, I've been a lot more aware of earthquakes around the world. Either that, or there have just been a lot more than ever before. Here is one blogger's memory/reflection of the quake.

And according to this article, there will be plenty more memorials and remembrances as well as debate about reconstruction after the quake. If this earthquake, occurring in a developed country, still affects so many people, can you imagine how long it will take to put Haiti back together? It's overwhelming.

Like all the charity work and celebrity attention Haiti has, there was also a group (Artists for Abruzzo) who wrote a song to help the residents of the Abruzzo region. I love it musically--all my favorite Italian artists in one song! And the lyrics are solid as well. This version translates the lyrics, and while they are a little confusing at times (some things don't translate all that well), it does give you the same message--we're not alone, tomorrow comes to everyone.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Things I Should be More Concerned About Than I Am.

  1. There are two novels on my required, for class reading list as of now, but instead I'm reading two other non-required, not for class novels.
  2. I've been having a really hard time falling asleep at night, hence this post-midnight post despite the fact that I get up at 7:30 every morning.
  3. Part of the reason I'm up so late is I decided to make brownies at 11:30.
  4. There's an unidentifiable smudge on the pages of the green memoir I'm reading. The memoir that openly discusses eco-friendly bathroom habits.
  5. I'm sleeping on my futon tonight because the thought of climbing into my lofted bed pains me.
  6. I'm not sure if the title for this post is grammatically correct.