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Archive for the ‘lifestyle’ Category

Not that you noticed I was gone, or only spasmo-sporadically updating things, as my ties to thee sputtered off and on, mostly off.

Well, foobar felgercarb snargleblarg. The good news is that we have IntarToobZ again.  The bad news is that can only get up to about 1.3 Mbps incoming, and 300ish outgoing.  So say we all, including the little speedy-test apps, who should know.

My suspicion that requesting an upgrade to Premium 6Mbps service was to blame was correct, but in an unexpected way.  The nice folks at AT&T had not actually messed up our connection (hush, o you cynics and scoffers).  Instead, trying to push a higher rate through the line had revealed a physical line issue that had not manifested at our previous SBCYahoo blazing 768Kbps level of connectivity.  (hush, I say)

A very pleasant fellow came out here today at about 9:30am and just left a few minutes ago, after 3 hours of outside line work.  He got us a fresh pair to what passes for the local infrastructure and did the extremely tedious phone work of contacting both departments needed to roll back the subscription from Premium to Elite (ooh, we’s ‘leet!).  At over 15k feet to the local Central Office, well, let’s say I was surprised in the first place when the automatic “do you qualify” checker came back and offered me the Premium option.  Apparently there’s a “weak 5Mbps” where the lines come into the local distribution point in our complex, and from there it’s all downhill as they’re farmed out to the various residences.

I think the extra measure of cheer for our visiting AT&T service guy might have come from contemplating the alternative.  How unpleasant his time would have been if the phone line hadn’t come into our place under the nice, dry carport!  He got to avoid the cold, nasty drizzle that’s been watering the garden all morning.  I offered to get him some hot coffee or tea, and he was surprised– isn’t anyone nice to service folks anymore?

So, welcome back, IntarWebZ, we salute thee.  Just not as speedily as we’d hoped.

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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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Speaking of whole grains, in the last post, remind me (and scares me!) that we’re almost halfway through another year. Yeesh!

I don’t recall now whether we made our New Year’s resolutions at Rosh Hashanah or in late December, but I thought I’d post them and see how we’re doing.

These are our family resolutions, rather than any personal ones. We pledged to help each other achieve them.

  • Eat Healthier, specifically have a whole-grain veggie meal for dinner at least twice a week, buy only organics when possible, no more bread with white flour, sugar, or corn syrup as substantial ingredients, drink less diet soda (splenda) and more tea/water/juice. Very Good; most of these things are fait accompli; still falling prey to the Cookie Monsters about once a month; Mike is drinking way too much diet (splenda) soda, but it’s still a shift from all diet coke, and has him at only 3 cans coke per day maximum.
  • Exercise! Moar!. Mike, gym 2 – 3 times week, including training session. Strata, daily half-hour cardio plus gym twice a week, incl training session. Mike: Great! Strata: Flunking out; health and work issues got me off-track and I haven’t gotten back on, been to the gym maybe a dozen times in 6 months, ugh!!! At least I’m gardening.
  • Downsize, specifically get rid of stuff we’re not using, buy less, reduce our carbon footprint, etc. bouts of freecycling that need to be resumed while I’m on ‘vacation’ (ha, you should see my to-do list), exercise restraint at flea markets, online catalogs, etc. Very Good
  • Puff Appreciation; be nicer to the Puffs, they are getting old; spoil them more, get the yard fenced so they can enjoy the garden, get better food. The fencing got off the ground this spring, first one neighbor and then the other, plus we hired a guy to close off one side and put in a gate. He’ll be back after Memorial Day to close off the other side. The pet food scare really got me off the ground trying a raw diet for the cats, but they rebelled. On the other hand, they are now off dry food entirely, and getting canned stuff 2 – 3 times a day; all the canned is organic and/or human quality, and no more ‘products’ or ‘by-products’ allowed in it. Little or no grain, only rice flour. Boo’s habitual arthritis and tail dandruff has all but vanished! I make more time for them, and they mug me for love more often. Excellent!
  • Clean Up Our Act!, keep the house neater, declutter it, maintain stuff more, such as outdoor painting touchup, regular window washing, and similar. Poor; we played catch-up for Passover and my Mom’s visit, but the house has been mostly a pit. Contemplating a Roomba and maybe a Scooba. Realized that the “Downsize” item is strongly linked– less stuff, looks better, we keep cleaner.
  • Green Up Our Act by doing more recycling, conservation, etc. Bought TerraPass offsets for both vehicles and our house; recycling cardboard, mail, and paper cartons regularly now in addition to plastics/glass. Continuing to use the city yardwaste bin for garden stuff. Trying to keep to 100-Mile Diet when possible; buying local. Switch to more LED lights at home. Very Good, so far. Watch our act plummet if we bring Birdie back on the road, at 6mpg, ugh. Will TerraPass it, but still!
  • Get Out More Often and just be social, see friends, etc. Poor, as life has been deadline driven for both of us for most of the year so far, and our uncleaned-up living space prevents impromptu at-home socializing. Gotta do better. No, we can’t hire cleaners, it doesn’t really help and it’s too expensive for us right now.
  • Public Service by Choice; stop saying ‘yes’ to too many things and concentrate on the ones that matter, like our chairing of the Emergency Preparedness Committee here, or my seed distribution and community garden stuff. We made time for the SNAP class, keep up with SPECS, are sworn Disaster Services peeps with Sunnyvale. Good, but let’s see how the 2nd half of the year goes. Strata is interested in SAR support work (logistics, support for SAR active personnel), which is part of the possibly revving up Birdie equation. Mike agrees, and wants to finish Birdie’s comms infr to support that.
  • Active Investment; somewhere along the line, we stopped putting away $X/month and started using it to pay extra on the mortgage and to get us both going to fitness training. It’s been over a year since we made those choices, which we noticed were just on autopilot around the new year. Need to re-examine those choices, and rebalance our life energy and our financial investment portfolios. No action on this yet. Flunking Out!
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