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Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Times are tough for some of us, less so for others. If you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity and means to contribute to a 401K account through your employer, you may have topped out your contribution around now. How about putting an extra $25 or $50 of that to work for charity, in time to count for this year’s taxes?

More and more charities have easy monthly sign-up plans now, where you can give $10, $20, or however much per month. That’s like, giving up one latte a week and getting a coffee instead. But over the year, it adds up for the charity you’re helping. Maybe you’d find it’s easier to give up something small to help somebody else than to save it for yourself. Or decide you want to give up two tall mochas a week and buy yourself something nice at the end of the year with the fund from one of them!

Anyways– this is on my mind and I figured I’d blog my own favorites list. I try to add one every year or so, so that I kind of get used to it and can do a bit more. And if you’re not in a position right now to give money, just smile at one more person a day and that will go a long way toward making the world a better place, too.

  • Heifer Project International; Provide farm animals, seeds, honeybees, to people, who then pass on the gift locally. A bootstrap program making a real difference all over the world.
  • Grameen Foundation; Micro-loans that enable small businesses and bring people out of poverty. A $10 – $20 loan can do things like enable a weaving cooperative to market directly from their village, or help people fund a local mill to grind grain.
  • International Foundation of Red Cross and Red Crescent; Humanitarian aid for disaster victims. You know about their efforts for earthquakes, floods, and the like, but did you know they also work locally to do things like house and help families burned out in apartment fires? Note that IFRC is the parent foundation; “National Societies” like the American Red Cross organize the work by country. IFRC has an online directory of National Societies by country.
  • Hesperian Foundation; Publishing books like “Where There is No Doctor” and “Helping Children Who Are Blind” in multiple languages. All of these books are available for download via their site, btw.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation; Defending digital liberties, fighting vote fraud, and so very much more.
  • Amnesty International; Working to free the unjustly imprisoned worldwide, and providing hope to those who have been shut away in some political oubliette for speaking their mind and trying to change things.
  • Doctors Without Borders; Sending medical help where it is needed, sometimes into great dangers, to help people in need. Volunteer doctors, nurses, EMTs, pilots– but they need gas money for the planes, medical supplies, logistics, etc.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council; Working to protect wilderness, wild areas, animals, plants, biodiversity. Not one of those “don’t touch it, we don’t care if you starve” orgs, NRDC works on transitioning communities to ecotourism, sustainable wild harvesting, and giving people economic incentive to preserve for long-term good rather than destroy for short-term gain.
  • Organic Consumers Association; Promoting sustainability, fighting the dilution of ‘organic’ (eg, factory farm confinement dairies fed on organic corn), working with communities on food safety.

There are a number of other groups I support, but they don’t seem as universal or uncontroversial to me, like MoveOn, VoteSmart, Weston A Price Foundation.

Please comment with some of your favorite charities, it’s always great to hear.

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It’s getting close enough to election time, and various voter registration deadlines, that this excerpt from RISKS that I posted elsewhere is due for a refresh.  Will you be able to vote this year?  Take a few minutes soon and make sure that you are registered AND have whatever ID or papers your polling place will require.

Addressing the Challenges of Identification and Authentication in American Society
by Peter Swire, Cassandra Q. Butts, Center for American Progress, 2 Jun 2008

How individuals identify themselves in our country grows more complex by the year. Just last month, 12 nuns were turned away from voting booths during the Indiana presidential primary because they lacked state identification
(none of them drives), a stark reminder that the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld Indiana’s voter ID law poses lasting consequences to our democracy. And two years ago last month the personal identification data of 26.5 million veterans were lost from a government laptop, the latest in a
series of data breaches that threaten the integrity of everyone’s
identification.

Those 12 nuns are among 20 million other voting age citizens without driver’s licenses, and they join those 26.5 million veterans and many millions of other Americans who suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of what we call the ID Divide-Americans who lack official identification, suffer from identity theft, are improperly placed on watch lists, or
otherwise face burdens when asked for identification. The problems of these uncredentialed people are largely invisible to credentialed Americans, many of whom have a wallet full of proofs of identity. Yet those on the wrong side of the ID Divide are finding themselves squeezed out of many parts of
daily life, including finding a job, opening a bank account, flying on an airplane, and even exercising the right to vote. …

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/id_divide.html

Full report (pdf)
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/pdf/id_divide.pdf

Identification and Authentication Resources page
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/06/id_resources.html

(Via RISKS-Digest, RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest Sunday 8 June 2008 Volume 25 : Issue 19

ACM FORUM ON RISKS TO THE PUBLIC IN COMPUTERS AND RELATED SYSTEMS (comp.risks)
Peter G. Neumann, moderator, chmn ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

***** See last item for further information, disclaimers, caveats, etc. *****
This issue is archived at <http://www.risks.org&gt; as
<http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/risks/25.19.html&gt;
The current issue can be found at
<http://www.csl.sri.com/users/risko/risks.txt&gt;)

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I was looking for a reference in my notebooks, and then just browsing. A note from 12/28/1995 seems worth quoting today:

“For all of us, it is the public expression of desire that is embattled, any deviation from what we are supposed to want and be, who we are supposed to behave.” Dorothy Allison, “Skin: Talking About Sex, Class And Literature”

It is not what we want, it is the act of wanting that is both a political and a personally threatening act. Even to want anything as simple as a flower, a sunset, a cookie, is to bring forth the hidden “I”. “I want.” I am I, I have an identity rather than just a function.

Wanting is the ultimate subversive act to those who depend on and make use, or misuse, of the functions we carry out– wife, mother, secretary, woman to leer at, etc. We may not even know to what functional role someone has assigned us, until we express a want not consonant with that role in that person’s presence. SRChalup, Cat Leaping Notebook

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Remember when nerds ran through the hallways of MIT chanting “The Ringworld is unstable! The Ringworld is unstable!”?  OK, I don’t remember directly, as it was rather before I got there, but my realization today was equally shocking.   Environmentalism isn’t sustainable, not the way it’s practiced currently.  Let me tell you how I got there, and how we can work on getting around the problem.

This evening I read a fascinating post dissecting some environmental myths and affordances over at David Reevely’s “EcoLibertarian”.   Reevely, like my spouse, is apparently a WW2 history buff, and found a very cogent (and relevant) analysis of the Allies’ bombing campaign in Richard Overy’s book “Why the Allies Won”.   Overy makes the point that the West’s strong points were in engineering and management, rather than an ability to shove literally millions of men onto the battlefield.  By leveraging those capacities, what looked like wasteful use of materials and energy actually turned out to save lives in the long run and transform the war from a brute-force context to one of capital and logistics.

Fast-forward to the birth of the environmental movement, which, as Reevely points out, arose on quasi-moral grounds, “on the idea that it was intrinsically sinful, in some sense, to consume more than you absolutely needed.”  This was usually expressed as separatism, with individuals and families trying to drop out and provide for all of their own needs.  As Reevely also observes, this meant lifestyle reductions, aka the infamous “do more with less”.

A lot of people still approach environmentalism as “what will I give up today?”   Reevely’s point, which I wholeheartedly endorse, is that there is more to environmentalism than this fundamentally reductionist approach.  Instead of trying to see how many eco-soldiers we can deploy to drop out and give up their goods and services, we should be asking ourselves how to use the momentum, in capital and engineering, that we built up with peak oil in order to create a better way going forward.

A very wise person recently told me that the key to happiness is moving toward pleasure, rather than away from pain.  An endless cycle of giving up things in order to “save the planet” can only go so far.  That’s moving away from pain, not toward something pleasant.   It’s a philosophy that can create some satisfaction, a sense of duty, and a smug “moral high ground”, but it doesn’t inspire or truly lead.   Ironically, a completely reductionist philosophy of environmentalism is ultimately not sustainable!  Dropping out of modern society is of less value, in my opinion, than staying in and calling for moderation and sanity, as well as leading by example.

For my own contribution, here are some approaches to environmentalism that I’ve found valuable in the real world.  I’m still giving up some things, but I’m doing it as part of a managed approach, not as an abnegation of the market system.

  • Using our day-to-day buying power to influence local micro-markets.  Enough of us must have filled out comment cards at Trader Joe’s, as they now have California-produced olive oil along with all the imported stuff.  I still complain about the bottled waters from overseas at least monthly, maybe it will add up to a difference someday.   Talking pleasantly to the folks stocking the produce department sometimes turns up a manager, and we express our appreciation for the local produce being carried, and wish out loud that more things had better area of origin labelling so we could make better choices.  In at least 2 of the 4 stores where I frequently shop, origin info has increased to naming the state, as well as the country.  I’m finding choices I didn’t know I had, e.g. between Tehachapi CA apples and Washington state apples and Australian apples, rather than just Jonathan vs Gala vs Fuji.   BTW, just because it’s not local doesn’t mean it’s bad– for instance, NZ and AU lamb that’s pasture-raised and transported by ship is actually more eco-neutral than local veggies raised with petrochemical fertilizers and irrigation.
  • Making a habit of letting our increasingly-ubiquitous connectivity enable frequent feedback to local, state, and national elected representatives fast and easy.  I keep a letter template on my desktop and laptop computers, and have my senators and representatives, as well as some town and state contacts, in my eFax rolodex.  If I read about something online or in a coffee shop, it’s the work of a few minutes to fire off a polite, focused faxed letter and let my opinion be heard.  Sure, I could email.  But again and again I read that it’s the physical pile of letters and faxes that are weighed more heavily than phone calls and emails, so I’ll spend the piece of paper.  Who knows, they may not even be printing them out.
  • Leveraging the economic and lifestyle surplus of peak-oil-now to invest and invent for future sustainability.  A good example of this is all of us backyard gardeners enjoying a hobby while learning how to actually grow stuff.  It’s a good thing my family doesn’t live or die on the basis of my garden, even though we do pretty well most of the time.   I buy carbon credits for our vehicles, after researching the options, because I want to encourage that practice.   New innovations in manufacturing are letting us build some high-end components like LEDs and solar cells more cleanly and cheaply than ever, but we couldn’t have gotten there without the fuss and waste in the middle.   Increasing numbers of people are finding ways to telecommute part or full time.  Etc.

The overall summary  Don’t drop out and raise llamas in the woods unless you LOVE raising llamas in the woods.     It will just make you bitter, and annoy the llamas.  You want to be Eco, not Emo.   What are you doing to be Eco smarter, not harder?  Y’all are an extremely hoopy set of froods, and smart as new paint– leave a comment and share your approaches, too, please!

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squishable.com tiger!
I just discovered Squishables, big squeezy armfuls of plushy critter goodness. They has tigers! They has monkeys! Even sheepses! Squeeeee!

squishable sheep! I predict sheep raids in the SCA will come back into fashion!

Cough. Ahem. I mean, they have a wide veriety of popular creatures, depicted as fat, fuzzy, balls of squee, err, um, as neotenous symbolic representations that invite tactile contact for primate reassurance. Huggable! Did we mention huggable!

squishable.com code monkey, err monkey!

I almost forgot the best part:

Pix 4 charity! For every picture of you smiling with your Squishable that we receive in the month of November, we’ll donate a dollar to Operation Smile. [a charity that helps children born with facial deformities receive corrective surgery-- SRC] The more smiling faces, the more cash, up to $500.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your Squishable, and take a picture of you and your new buddy! Buy one for the helpdesk at your company– they need a mascot, preferably one that’s huggable, after dealing with you lot all day, every week!

Let the squishing begin!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Squishables right now but I am planning to become a customer as soon as I start my holiday shopping! I know a Code Monkey or two who could use more hugs, for instance.

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For the curious, and those considering joining the happy-go-lucky ranks of amateur radio volunteers, here are 15 minutes of live SVECS repeater audio from the October 30th earthquake. One of the SVECS (Silicon Valley Emergency Communication Services) members was doing audio capture of something unrelated when the quake hit, and switched his input to get the repeater traffic. Note that I’m not on there; the traffic is local AEC’s, Area Emergency Coordinators, checking in to pass on reports overall from local nets like SPECS (Southern Peninsula Emergency Communication Services) or Sunnyvale ARES.

If this had been a serious earthquake, the dialogue would have been much more focused, and possibly somewhat grim. As it is, it’s a nice sample of folks following the standard procedures: creating a net, Net Control taking damage reports, etc. Mike and I self-activated, checked into the Sunnyvale SARES/SPECS network, and went to the main clubhouse to set up our comm station in case of damage here in our housing complex. It was a nice test run of our own procedures, and we found some things that need work– such as someone moving the Damage Report packets to an unknown location, and the portable antenna being moved to where debris would have hampered access to it in a stronger quake.

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Leo Babauta of the awesome Zen Habits blog has kicked off Blog Action Day with his 50 Simple Steps that anybody can do any day to be kinder and gentler to the environment. How many are part of your standard practice already?

  1. Take a shorter shower.
  2. Use a rag or hand towel instead of napkins or paper towels.
  3. Don't print at least once today.
  4. Carpool once this week.
  5. Turn off the TV for an hour. [Was it on?! I doubt it!]
  6. Turn off the lights when you leave the room (even for a little while). [Hey, I'm a New Englander who grew up in the 70's... does anybody NOT do this one?!]
  7. Use a coffee mug instead of disposable (for takeout/coffeeshop) (Mostly, sometimes I forget to bring it!)
  8. Use CFC light bulbs.
  9. Skip the foil and plastic wrap for reusable food containers.
  10. Inflate your tires.
  11. Clean up (the beach, park, street, etc for a few minutes).
  12. Talk to your kids about the environment.
  13. Reuse printed paper.
  14. Turn down your water heater to 130F.
  15. Plant a tree.
  16. Hang out your clothes. [SRC: ok, technically not, but I'm taking credit because-- I read up on energy-saving appliances and found that apparently it's MUCH better over time to use the autodry cycle on your dryer instead of setting it manually to a time and resetting if stuff isn't dry enough; so now we do that. We're not f'ing allowed to have a clothesline here, apparently the yuppies might think "those people" had moved in if there were clotheslines. Grr.]
  17. Buy a manual reel mower or electric mower. [SRC: Better yet, get rid of your lawn, and have a garden instead; we have almost all garden or fixed landscaping (eg, mulch and weedblock around plantings). Our tiny patch of lawn, 2 foot by 10 foot, is small enough to mow with an electric weed whacker.]
  18. Get a low-flow shower head.
  19. Lower your thermostats. [SRC: in the summer, yes; in the winter, not so much, as I'm asthmatic and studies show that one's chance of catching cold or flu go up statistically for every degree below 70F while you sleep. But we have an electric radiator for the bedroom to handle this, and keep the rest of the house chilly.]
  20. Participate or organize a clean-up.
  21. Avoid fast food.
  22. Use acrylic paint (instead of oil-based).
  23. Coat your roof.
  24. Clean your filters.
  25. Telecommute.
  26. Wash clothes in cold water. [SRC: did you know that blood and other protein based stains come out in cold water but SET in warm/hot water?]
  27. Get a low-flow toilet (or make one, by putting spacers in your tank or otherwise adjusting the amount used for flushing).
  28. Buy recycled products.
  29. Recycle.
  30. Buy a smaller car.
  31. Buy a smaller home.
  32. Look for energy efficiency (in appliances).
  33. Water grass early in the morning.
  34. Plant shade trees near your house. [SRC: or, put up lattices and grow summer vines on them, like flowering scarlet runner beans, morning glories, ornamental hyacinth bean, climbing roses, etc. Runner beans or cherry tomatoes will give you a tasty bonus, as well as providing shade.]
  35. Use rechargeable batteries.
  36. Buy used.
  37. Walk instead of drive.
  38. Unplug appliances.
  39. Unload your car of all that stuff you 'forgot'.
  40. Try cycling.
  41. Install a water filter. [SRC: instead of buying bottled water; the amount of fossil fuel used to move filtered water around, and to put plastic around it, is tragic and appalling.]
  42. Use cloth shopping bags.
  43. Mend your stuff.
  44. Compost.
  45. Try mass transit.
  46. Buy in bulk.
  47. Buy durable.
  48. Use your oven less.
  49. Join a local organization.
  50. Join Blog Action Day. [SRC: here unofficially, and officially at My Bay Area Garden.]

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There’s a continuum along which one can be a traditionalist, an early adopter, a visionary, or simply an idiot, or insane, or both. The reality is that the same person, in the same place, will appear all along that continuum depending on the observer.

Ursula K LeGuin’s classic tale, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” never dealt with the friends and family of Those Who Walk Away. I started walking away over a decade ago, but stayed ‘a moment’ to enjoy someone’s company. Now I’m on the road again, metaphorically speaking, following in the footsteps of Kerouac, Thoreau, O’Keefe, and others.

How many tried to leave Omelas, but were restrained by friends and family ‘for their own good’? Worse, how many were grateful later on for being saved from such a ‘big mistake’?

Or were they really crazy? If so, the ones who left are a tragedy. If only they hadn’t been so naive and idealistic. If only. It may or may not be the only life we’ve got, but we have to live it as if it is, or it doesn’t count.

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Found this stunning blog entry about the death of someone’s mom via ‘s journal. Went on to read the comments (oh, the comments … heartbreaking) and the follow-up posting. [Edit: and the third posting.]

When I think about my ever-escalating war against the medical establishment to get GOOD treatment for my autoimmune diseases, and my supplement and lifestyle changes to prevent fibro or CFS, I realize that sometimes being a stubborn b**ch can be a good thing.

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The text (of my previous post entitled WORD!!) is a hyperlink of someone else’s words, but the sentiment is near and dear to me.

First let me say that I like the organization, I liked the folks I met at the installfest, and I plan to go back to future ones. I don’t think anyone acted in any way maliciously or unpleasantly. It was just “cultural programming in action”, like fish in water. I am not bitching (verb; to voice a non-positive opinion on anything that makes men feel defensive) about the org or the installfest, merely about the US of A culture in which it rests. That said…

It was less than fully amusing to attend a Linux installfest this past weekend and have total strangers grabbing my equipment without asking me first, and rushing to tell me what to do to set it up as I’m getting it out of the box. I got quite the look when I said, pleasantly but firmly, “Please leave that alone for now, thank you.”

If I’d shown up with a laptop or desktop PC looking lost, I could grok it. But I came loaded for bear with multiple laptops, cabling, hub, keyboard, a bagful of various kinds of serial connectors, my own install disks, and some hardware that a number of folks there had quite literally never seen before. On the latter, I got to watch guys asking other guys about it, rather than me, even though it was clearly part of my setup. When my friend Jeff was there, it was natural to ask him, but I’m not counting that– before he got there several guys went around the room asking other guys about “that hardware on the table”, or trying to pick it up to take it across the room to the folks running the installfest. In the latter case, I said, again pleasantly but firmly, “Hey, hello, that’s my hardware– do you have a question about it?”.

And normally I wouldn’t even bother to write it up, because it’s also Just Another Normal Thing.

So yeah, I don’t go out with placards, or think penetration equals rape, or any of that stuff. But I do consider gender relations in this culture, and many others, to be genuinely screwed up. An interesting book I’m reading on Pagan deities actually turns out to be much more philosophical than I’d realized. One author’s theory is that as agriculture, and warfare that can’t be nomadically avoided because you have to defend your fields/granaries, became more common, male deities and men themselves took more societal prominence, at the consensual request of society.

Now that we’ve moved beyond brute endurance style warfare, for the most part, perhaps societally we can afford to move into a more gender-balanced space. Of course, that actually is a threat to the privileged gender, so there will be a reaction and effort to keep the status quo. Please note that I’m not advocating matriarchy or woman-centric society either. I’d just like to see a bit less gender based grabby/bossy stuff going on, to save myself the trouble of having to smack/push back.

It *is* annoying, and the extra workload that it takes to maintain my own place in the face of all the competitiveness is a workload that I increasingly weigh vs the benefits of being social in professional and recreational groups. The whole aura of “hey, you’re breaking the rules / being a bitch” that gets generated when I, and other women, refuse to let folks talk over us or don’t smile when somebody tries to tell us what to do, that aura is just a royal pain in the ass and I am pretty tired of it.

Oh, and when we go off and make a ‘place of our own’, like linuxchix or the BlogHer conference, as soon as it looks interesting, guys come out of the woodwork to smugly say “you can’t have it both ways” and accuse women of discriminating if guys aren’t allowed. So anybody who comments to say that, get a life.

Screen, screen, screen… if you don’t want to be unscreened, say so in your comment.

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