Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Your attention, please?

This morning I found myself reading analysis about al-Maliki, Iraq's elected PM, visiting the White House as welcome respite from the daily inundation of stories on the Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Then, the irony of it all collapsed. I'm taking a break from one war for another. This is so sad. We've got so many wars and military conflicts running without end in sight that we can change the channel if one becomes too boring, tedious or excessively covered.

I got the feeling a few years ago that our world was at what many spiritually focused individuals call a "critical mass." Basically, there are enough people that are dissatisfied with the current state of awareness, of existence, that they either physically, politically or spiritually try to usher in change. I didn't know how or when it would happen, but the energy around world, the people that I spoke to, everything was sending the message that people have had enough of here and now and those who control it.

It was time for change.

Now, I see I was totally wrong. It wasn't a spiritual movement or a push toward enlightenment, but instead it was just a regime change. Political power was feeding the ever-hungry movement towards cultural and religious domination. Totalitarianism, not revolution, was the cultural turnover.

With all this war, what hope do we have that the future, whatever occurs after the bloodshed, will be any better than what whe had before a call to arms?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Foreign war fatigue

At this point, I am going to stop reading columns analyzing and breaking down the Israeli-Lebanese-Hezbollah conflict. It's a trying trifecta of guilt, greed and religious fervor that I just can't take anymore. Thinking about all of the in-depth analysis is making my frontal lobe twinge, and I'm not even reading about it!

It's gotten to the point where up is down, left is right and Israel is acting like an Eastern European despot, but Lebanon refused to take care of the southern border, which has become deeply entrenched with Anti-Israel, Anti-America jihadists, fighting under the yellow-and-green banner of Syrian and Iran-sponsored violence.

But, why is Israel going medieval on Beirut? That goes beyond defense into willful distruction. Now, many are saying that Israel will create more terrorists than it can kill, Israel, by all intents and purposes, is now fundamentally recruiting for Hezbollah by traipsing across southern Lebanon.

But, when is it too much? When do you just get so sick of it that you don't feel guilty for ignoring it? When do you throw in the towel, and say that they should duke it out in a winner-takes-all deathmatch? When do you just plain give up as an activist and believer in peace.

I think many people feel like this; embattled with our moral obligations but just plain tired of the tit-for-tat fighting. We're sick of the kidnapping, the beheadings, the murder and the missiles. We're tired of the more-than-macho attitudes and these wars waged in the name of God, and I'm pretty sure that He's not too happy with all this, especially with that whole "love thy neighbor" diatribe falling on deaf ears.

But it makes me ill to even think about it.

Hezbollah said that this year they would return foreign captives to their native soil. That was the logic behind grabbing the two Israeli soldiers and breaking for the border. But, the timing is terrible -- escalating violence with Hamas and Palestine has forced Israel's hand. They're playing like it's all-out war, and they're playing for keeps.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Triangle to Half-moon

"This is one of my favorite vinyasas because it emphasizes balance, focus, breathing and provides a great lower body stretch."

Several students nodded, but I bet they were thinking "Oh God, I'm going to embarass myself. I can't... do... this."

"Now, legs wide apart, and angle your left foot in, your right foot out... Stretch your arms out... open your heart... Now bring your fingertips to the floor."

"Triangle is the easy part, I can do triangle... it's the half-moon pose... remember, focus and balance... focus, balance... focus... balance..."

And the next time I opened my eyes, my left leg was off of the ground, extended parallel to the floor while my right leg, straight and strong like a tree rooted deep into the soil, supported me. My right arm, with my fingertips just skimming my mat, supported my torso. Reaching for the sky with my left arm, I watched my fingers wiggle in the air.

"I'm doing it... finally."

"Now, bring your left hand back to your hip, and slowly... slowly... lower your left leg back to the mat. Extend your right and return to triangle."

"Done. I did it."

"Now, rise up and let's move to the other side..."

"Oh God... I'm going to embarass myself!"

Monday, July 17, 2006

Kinky, the iron is thermogenic...

... much like this Texas summer.

Two Texas Commandments. 1) Thou must have central air conditioning. 2) Thine hairdryer is off-limits. Imperfect hair in a blistering Texas summer is quite excusable.

But why are we plagued, year after scorching year, with weekly highs cresting 100 F? Well, it doesn't help that Texas is by far the most prolific producer of CO2, the gas that seeps into our atmosphere and causes the natural phenomenon of global warming.

At least we're first in something, right? But wait, who else but Gov. Rick Perry (fellow Aggie, and easily impressionable) wants to further extend our smoggy lead and authorize 17 new coal-burning power plants. These power plants burn the dirtiest fuel possible and the smokestacks put not only co2 in our air, but also SO2, NOx and Mercury, which is a known contributor to birth defects and can be lethal in large quantities.

Now, a lot of Texas legislators are saying we should give TXU, a utilities compay that wants to build these plants to meet Texas' insane demand for electricity (which powers those lovely central air units) and drive down the cost of powering the power-hungry residential market. Well, that'd be great, if electric utilities were still regulated and were required to follow certain rules, especially since in these days, electricity is a necessity. But, our market is deregulated, and TXU will never be forced to lower their rates, even though they have an effective monopoly.

TXU and legislators point to the fact that they aren't even the major contributor to CO2 emissions in Texas. On-road mobile (cars, trucks and tractor/trailers) and off-road mobile (heavy machines and construction equipment) are by far the largest producers of carbon and nitrogenous emmissions. TXU says that to clean our air, those people who drive should become more responsible, like use public transit and ridesharing, or move closer to the city-center in which they work.


That sounds well and good, but TXU, your coal plants aren't exactly helping. And why on Earth is our state government so implicit, so freaking excited about these plants? Whereas, most Texans, especially those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, are livid. Everyone should do their part to clean our air. Yes, are motorists are a bit slower to action, but dagnabit, TXU should show some corporate cooperation, some conglomeration goodwill! With all due disrespect, this is insanity!

But, there is one person that can benefit from this heinous proposal: Kinky Friedman. If the governor really, really wants those pancakes, he'll take a stand against this. He'll take a stand against corporate and government collusion. He'll be the peoples candidate for functional democracy.

So, let's hear it, Kinky. It's like a free platform, so hop on it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

EXTREME WEEKEND! *disclaimer: if you have a fear of falling ceiling fans, forgoe reading this blog!

By Friday of last week, I thought it was Saturday. A strange holiday week, with Independence day falling on Tuesday and not getting Monday off work, threw my work-week rhythym for a loop! So by the time it was time for a timely weekend, I was already in a Saturday mid-morning haze.

I was in bed early on Friday so I would rise early Saturday and make a 10 a.m. yoga class. I stumbled through the house, landing in the kitchen. I filled my breakfast bowl with a little granola, fixed some java, retrieved the paper and planted my slumbering body at the head of the dining table.

Unlike most Saturday mornings, Dave was up and around. He, just as half-awake as I, was absent-mindedly roving the house. When he reached the dining room, he asked, "Aren't you a bit hot?" and reached for the fan pull above the table. After one solid yank, the fan crashed, WHAM! onto the dining table and bits of it landed in my breakfast and in my coffee.

I was so alarmed. "What the **expletive** just happened!?" I sat and stared at the ceiling fan, which came to rest just inches before me. If I hadn't moved to the head of the table, if I had sat in my regular seat, the fan would have landed on my head, and the world would be deprived of my roasted garlic hummus forever.

Fate was on my side though, and as we scooped the bits of glass and splinters of wood from the table and the rug. "At least we'll get a new fan!" quipped Dave, which was immediately followed by a pummelling.

After yoga class, I discreetly ventured to the pet supply store, bought a feeder mouse for Motley and cat food, and came home. Dave and I had thought about getting a dog the night before, so when I got home, we discussed it over lunch. We found that a local shelter was having a pet fair at a different pet supply store, so we grabbed our checkbook and departed.

Upon arriving, I was overcome with jealousy. "Why does everyone else get a cute pup but me?" I thought as my lower lip protruded into a modest pouty face. In the center of the cool tiled floor there were dozens of pet crates, and inside those crates were pets. And lots of 'em. I kept thinking, "All of these little guys don't have permanent homes, but I can't take them all. But... just one. Pick one. This'll be hard Jo, but pick just one..."

And I did!

The name's Fitzgerald, but it's F. Scott to you!

This little guy has been through it! He's around a year or two old, and he's had his left front leg broken, but it wasn't set properly, so it kind of bends in an odd direction that makes it look like he's sort of prissy. And with our drought, I bet he's got a raging case of allergies. But, by golly, he's a sweetie!

Mr. Orange is warming to him, but Dawsey still bolts at the sound of his jingling tags. He's housebroken and friendly, and really, he's everything I wanted in a small dog, except that he sheds, but that's okay because the cats shed like mad, too.

Sunday, I went shopping, we got a bit of rain, worked on our monthly budget and what not. Overall, maybe I should have just called it "EXTREME SATURDAY!"

Oh well!

Monday, July 03, 2006


Packing a ship and sailing to colonize a far-off land with virgin terrain and intricately interwoven ecosystems — and still surviving past the first winter — is a triumph. It was the first step that the first Americans made in adapting to the New England landscape. In those times, people lived around the conditions of the land. In these times, we form the land around our lifestyles: that's the very definition of anthropocentrism; a people-centered culture.

The industrial revolution hinged on using machines to make our lives easier, to produce goods with less labor and in larger quantities. Through time, goods were produced more efficiently in even larger quantities, which includes our food. We found chemicals and substances, methods of irrigation and delivery that industrialized the food chain.

But with unlimited production of consumer goods and government-sponsored agriculture, there have been side effects. Externalities like polluted aquifers, fish kills, BSE, erosion, ozone, brimming landfills, birth defects and dangerously high levels of contaminants in our drinking water and soil run rampant from our industrial indulgence.

Decades later, a counterculture of organic farmers and growers have brought back part of what made pre-industrialized life better for our health: biocentrism, or coexisting with the landscape. Instead of conquering and surmounting the Great Plains to grow amber waves of grain, they're coddling the hills and embracing the natural ecosystem, planting smaller crops and using biological pest management strategies. And their revolution? It's catching on so much that the world's largest retailer wants a piece of their wholesome, Earth-loving pie.

But wait! Wal-Mart is bad, right? Well, yes, in some aspects, but when you dismiss the mammoth discount retailer as all things evil, you're ignoring the environmental implications of this adjustment. In theory, if all of the produce that Wal-Mart moves annually were organic, the environmental benefits would astound. That's several millions of pounds of fresh produce, which if grown organically, would spare our environment from a significant portion of the one billion pounds that, according to the EPA, are applied to U.S. crops annually.

Often we overlook the supply chain, seeing only the neatly stacked apples and recently misted broccoli crowns under the grocer's fluorescent lights. That product required chemicals to keep pests from eating it before you do, it required water diverted from rivers that never reach the ocean. It was harvested by machines that belch as much carbon into the air as a half-dozen pickups with leaky mufflers. Mass producing organic fruits, vegetables, grains and fibers would drastically reduce the environmental impact of traditional farming.

And with Wal-Mart, the price is right, too. Your typical pound of organic apples at a specialty retailer like Whole Foods or Central Market would cost anywhere from $4 to $6, but at Wal-Mart, $2 per pound is about as much as you'll pay. This opens up the organic market to people with incomes far smaller than the Whole Foods frequenter. Although some critics of organic farming say that the health benefits from products free of chemicals, fertilizers and other man-made agricultural interlopers are marginal. But the social and environmental benefits of organics will provide a feel-good ripple effect. People who buy organic will know that their demand is shaping the supply chain, and that has hope to change the face of how America grows and harvests food.