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Archive for the ‘making a difference’ Category

It was only kinda sorta official before, but now there’s a press release and a case study and everything. So I can finally talk about what I’ve been doing for the past year or so. Nope, it’s not a good excuse for dropping out of all my non-work activities, but it’s Very Shiny.
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We built a behind-the-firewall Second Life Grid for IBM. (As that article said, it jumped the gun– I sure couldn’t talk about it!) I had the privilege of being the Project Manager for what turned into an amazing interdisciplinary intercompany effort– Lindens are awesome, and it’s great to be one and help with things like this. Years of experience working on challenging rollout projects with multiple vendors didn’t hurt either. 😉

Now we’re in the sweet triumph phase of the project. It’s time to take that deep breath and let it out with a happy sigh. “Ahhhhh.” … and then get back to work on the current thing that I can’t tell you about either. I’m trying for better work-life balance this time around!

OK, maybe Twitter, Facebook, and blogging are not what we call “better work-life balance” outside of Silicon Valley, but since here is where I am, well, see you online!

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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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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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Worked up a rather long reply to a friend who has a parent with some issues, and thought others might appreciate the info. Getting a parent to actually TAKE vitamins or admit anything is wrong might be, well, some kind of karmic irony in action. But maybe you can use the info to get their doctor to evaluate and propose some supplemental nutrition.

  • The excellent Alzheimer’s pages at Healing with Nutrition mention that “Two of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the elderly are folic acid and vitamin B12. These deficiencies lead to motor skill disturbances, confusion, delusion, fatigue, memory loss, numbness, and ringing in the ears. Sounds like dementia, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, and multiple sclerosis all rolled up into one. The important thing to realize is that there are often no differences between the subtle signs of nutrition deficiency and what we interpret as “old age.””
  • Some doctors’ papers available at an Australian site offer a lot of hope:
    “Not a single one of the scores of middle-aged-to-elderly people who have consulted me since 1981 for memory-loss or early Alzheimer’s dementia – and who stayed on my program – has ever gone on to develop the full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease.”
  • This research paper indicates that “cholinesterase inhibitors, FDA-approved drugs that slow the breakdown of acetylcholine in Alzheimer’s patients, help alleviate dementia symptoms.”
  • Try increasing available acetylcholine via nutritional supplements.
  • Look at other medications the folks are on to find any anticholinergic drugs that may be bringing on dementia-like symptoms; also check the listed side effects and interactions to see if ‘cognitive impairment’ is listed.
  • Consider applying several of the suggested therapies from CERI’s table of anti-Alzheimer’s recommendations, especially DMAE, glutathione, and lots and lots of lethicin and B’s. Note that we forwarded info from CERI’s programs on dealing with Downs Syndrome via nutritional therapy to Mike’s brother when our little niece was born with it. She is mainstreamed and does really well, though she may top out at some point (is only 11 now). Mike’s mom thinks that it’s because little A “only had a mild case”– um, yeah. Trisomy-21, you have it or you don’t, eh? Dunno if their Alzheimer’s stuff is as good, but give it a shot.
  • This MIT research “suggests that a cocktail treatment of omega-3 fatty acids and two other compounds normally present in the blood, could delay the cognitive decline seen in Alzheimer’s disease” (omega-3’s, uridine, and choline)
  • Wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil, or deep-sea norweigan fish oil, are both the best omega-3/omega-6 good-ratio supplements out there. Flaxseed oil requires the body to do more conversion (a conversion which cats can’t do, found out about it on a make your own petfood site). Pasture-raised eggs, specifically the yolks, are an excellent source of omega-3; current indoor, factory-farmed eggs and meats are quite lacking in them compared to historical values. Most modern grain-heavy diets provide a ton of omega-6 but without omega-3 in the right ratios you run into trouble. Yes, that’s a very vague statement; go look these up yourself, I’m tired now.
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