Monday, December 31, 2007

A year's worth of trash

From Treehugger:
Ari Derfel of Berkeley, California, saved his trash - including what he generated when he went out - for an entire year and ended up with a kitchen and then a living room full (96 cubic feet to be exact) of mostly food packaging, bits of paper, and the odd condom. He composted all his food scraps and over time, became obsessively careful about what he bought and consumed. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Derfel's experiment was a vivid demonstration of the fact that while we throw away lots and lots of trash, much of it never really goes completely away.

One of the most interesting and thought-provoking results of Derfel's experiment was his feelings around trash maintenance - he spent a lot of time sorting, and rinsing and drying his trash, the pre-process many of us are well-acquainted with in preparation for recycling, which Derfel denounces as 'wasteful' in his blog, saveyourtrash.

"Of course recycling is a powerful first step in becoming aware of what one consumes," Derfel says. "That said, [recycling] takes enormous amounts of energy and clean water..."

While Derfel says recycling is a needed alternative to using up raw materials, it can also show a lack of effective design around our own consumption. Why for example, must we all take home untold take-out packages instead of having personal, reusable containers? Derfel plans to give his accumulated trash pile to an interested artist - there's gotta be a treehugger out there who qualifies. Via ::SF Chronicle

Original article.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. There's a reason why they're in that order. I remember when I heard about Ed Begley, Jr. fitting all his trash into his mailbox...I don't recall if it was one week's, one month's, or what. I think cutting back on packaging in any significant fashion would be harder than any other environmental undertaking. It really permeates to the core of our way of life. But just because it's a daunting task doesn't mean we should give up without even trying. Baby steps...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Whole Foods

I've told so many people about this story from The Consumerist, I decided to post it here in my blog:

What did Whole Foods Associate Manager Ted Donoghue do when his West Hartford store lost its computer system during a major snowstorm? Nothing! After realizing that the registers were down for the count, Donoghue issued simple instructions to his cashiers: bag the customer's groceries and wish them happy holidays.

No storewide announcement was made and the store ended up giving away groceries worth $4,000.

[Manager Kimberly Hall] said Donoghue did not consult headquarters before making his decision and said she has heard no negative feedback from the top brass.

"They just totally trust us to do what is right for our customers," she said.

It didn't appear to be a big deal to Hall. In fact, neither the store nor the chain sought publicity for what happened.

Just as turtle hatchlings know to shimmy towards the moonlit sea, employees freed from constraining corporate codes know exactly how to provide unimpeachable customer service. Great work, Ted!

Original article here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

What charity would you give $30 million to?

The war against terror is costing us $15 Billion dollars per month. You could give 5000 charities three million dollars each--for just one month's cost of the war. For ten months' cost, you could give those same 5000 charities 30 million dollars each. What charity would YOU give it to?

1. Humane Society of the US
2. American Red Cross
3. World Wildlife Fund
4. Sierra Club
5. Disabled American Veterans
6. St. Jude Children's Hospital
7. Domestic violence shelters
8. PBS
9. Doctors Without Borders
10. America's Second Harvest
11. YMCA
12. Salvation Army
13. Boys and Girls Club
14. American Cancer Society
15. Habitat for Humanity
16. Big Brothers Big Sisters
17. Special Olympics
18. Muscular Dystrophy Association
19. Toys for Tots
20. Unicef
21. Make A Wish Foundation
22. Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
24. Environmental Defense Fund
25. Amnesty International
26. United Way
27. National Public Radio
28. Goodwill
29. Salvation Army
30. Children's Defense Fund

Or, for one month's cost of the war, you could stand out in front of Target and give out $100 gift cards at the rate of 1 per minute for 104,166 days. That's 285 years.

Pray for peace, people everywhere. Do you see what I see?

Friday, December 28, 2007

So how long till the cordless home theater?

How sleek...
...the way these WildChargers work would require a couple of physics classes to completely understand. The layman's explanation is that it uses inductive charging—the type you see in Sonicare toothbrushes—that will charge your gadget just by placing it on a sheet.

Amazing bear rescue

Go here to check out pics of an amazing bear rescue. How on earth did he get there in the first place??

A little late, but your decorations are still up, so....

I LOVE acapella groups. Especially when they're funny, and this one's hilarious. (Saw this on Heather's blog and totally had to copy her.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cool Yule

A merry time was had by all!

Christms Eve I arrived at my parents' house around 3, and my brother arrived with Cassidy around 9 (he had to deliver all those last-minute packages to expectant UPS customers). We had hot cocoa and started watching The Simpsons Movie, but I don't think anyone was awake by the end. I, for one, was fast asleep. My dad woke me up at 1:30 and they had already put all the presents under the tree (you know, to help out Santa, who must've dropped them off on the porch or something).

We got up around 8 on Christmas Day, although Cassidy probably could have slept much longer. The first few presents she was still a little dazed. But she caught on right away that all the ones with Winnie the Pooh wrapping paper were for her, so she was thrilled to run around the tree picking them all out. "It's for me!" "This one's for me too!" She got lots of Winnie the Pooh and Nemo stuff, including a washcloth that came all compacted down into this tiny star. When you run it under water, it grows. She got a kick out of that, and wanted to do the same thing to other presents. "Get it wet!" It doesn't work that way, hon.

Matthew and I made out like bandits. We both got crock pots and hepa air purifiers. I also got a toaster oven and a food steamer (which I used last night--frozen salmon, frozen cauliflower, set for 20 minutes, and voila! Dinner.) I got Lost Season 3 on DVD, and am looking forward to some marathon viewing sessions. I also got Nip Tuck Season 1 (I've heard it's good, and was a steal on Black Friday), and How I Met Your Mother Season 1 (I just started watching this year, and it's super funny!). I got my usual US Mint proof set (they seem to get bigger every they have the "regular" coins, plus the state quarters, plus the presidential gold dollars) along with an uncirculated set. There's lots of other things I haven't mentioned--it's really an embarrassment of riches--but the piece de resistance came after we were supposedly all finished, and Dad had started making breakfast. Mom said, "Oh look, there's two more presents under the tree...I didn't see those before. I wonder who they're for?" I unwrapped a super spiffy RED, engraved iPod Nano! And Matthew was pleased as punch to get a Tom Tom GPS navigator. We must have been on Santa's "very, very good" list this year!

The afternoon was spent mostly preparing our feast. I volunteered to do the green bean casserole, Good Eats style. In other words, no canned soup! I sliced up onions, tossed them in breadcrumbs and flour, and baked them to a crisp. I trimmed fresh green beans and boiled them. I made the sauce with fresh mushrooms, butter, garlic, and half and half. Super yummy. The recipe is here if you'd like to try it yourself.

Since the next day was a work day for both me and my brother, we left relatively early. Yesterday was super slow here at the office, and today is pretty similar. Some schools will be back in session starting the 2nd, though, so I'm enjoying the lull while it lasts! I was given the opportunity to go to Wisconsin again, but turned it down, because I'm snow-travel phobic. Same with Ohio. I did take on a session in Boone, NC, though, which could be just as treacherous. Hopefully there won't be a blizzard the day I'm there!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Could she BE any cuter?

Cassidy went on her first merry-go-round ride last weekend...I love this shot:

She's a pro at posing for the camera.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Legend

Who doesn't like Will Smith? I saw I Am Legend this afternoon and the hour and 40 minutes flew by! I wouldn't normally have gone to see this in the theater, but I went with Mike, the guy from my second eHarmony date. I didn't blog about the date here, because although it went really well, he didn't call or email in the following days. I finally emailed him to say, "whassup??" and he said that he didn't feel any chemistry but thought we had a lot in common and would like to hang out. K, whatever. I'm not going to read anything into it. I'll just take it for what it is. I really thought I'd never hear from him again, but I got an email from him this morning asking if I wanted to have lunch or see a movie, as he needed a break from moving into his new apartment. He'd mentioned wanting to see I Am Legend, and, I'll reiterate, who doesn't like Will Smith?

So I found myself at Brier Creek at 3:30, laptop and all (I was on call, as usual--although as we were waiting in line to buy a soda, my boss called and said he'd cover me for the two hours of the movie--sweet!) There's not much to report about our conversation (and why would I do that if we're just friends anyway, right?), but the movie was great. It sucked me in right away, and the dog Sam is just precious. Then it got kinda scary with the "dark seekers" and stuff, and it got to a point where I was like, "How on earth is this going to have a happy ending?" I can't say anything more without giving something away, and I'd hate to spoil it for anyone else who's going to see it.

The film defies being pigeonholed into one genre. Google categorizes it as "SciFi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Drama." It's like part Castaway, part Signs, part Outbreak, part Blast from the Past. It'll definitely make you jump out of your seat more than once, and make you wonder if the world could really get that messed up in just 3 years. Not exactly upbeat holiday fare, but an entertaining way to spend a chilly December afternoon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Decoration photos

What my tree looks like in the daytime.

Comet loves to sit under the tree. Just like Gabrielle's Pumpkin.


Had to have this as soon as I saw it.


One of the many snowmen my dear friend Nicole has given me over the years. His name is Joey Jingles.


Bell stocking holder


Countdown stocking holder

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Christmas Tree

Perfect little tree, seems to have been made for the spot. And it's recycled! Or rather, reused. Found it by the dumpster near the recycle bin when I was moving out of my apartment many months ago, apparently cast off by its previous owners due to...what...not fitting in the moving van? Lights still on it and everything. Works beautifully. All I need is a topper. Must go a on a quest for the perfect one. I found awesome stocking hangers this weekend...will post photo soon.

This is my first Christmas tree since 2000. Have I regaled you with this tale of woe before? Picture it: I'm on winter break, the tree has seen better days (it was a real one), and I decide to take off the decorations and haul it down to where it will be picked up for woodchipping. It's not terribly heavy, what with all the moisture being gone, but it's bulky. It was a very wide-bottomed tree, but I'd chosen it for its perfect isosceles shape. (My word, how many times can I say the word "perfect" in one post??) Anyway, I'm carting it down the stairs, getting poked by all the dry little needles, and I'm almost to the bottom, in fact I think I'm at the bottom, so I go to take that last step...except it wasn't the last step, it was the second-to-last step, and I twisted my ankle something fierce. I managed to drag the tree over to the pick up spot, hopping on one foot, and then go back upstairs to nurse my wounds. When it started to swell and not feel any better, I called my dad, and he came over to check it out. We agreed I should go to the doctor. If I recall, we waited until the next day, and he took me to my primary care physician to get a referral to an orthopedic guy (stupid HMO's). Got an xray, an sure enough, fractured fifth metatarsal, which is the long bone on the outside of your foot. Got a cast and crutches, a scrip for Vicodin (which did nada for me), and strict instructions not to drive, since it was my right foot.

This posed a couple of problems. First of all, I lived on the second floor of an apartment building, with no elevator. Not exactly crutch-friendly. So, I moved back in with my parents for a couple of weeks, until I could get a walking cast. Secondly, my dad had to drive me to work and pick me up. It was kind of fun, but also kind of like being tossed back into high school. Thank goodness his schedule was flexible enough to do that, though!

So I was teaching seventh graders at the time, and when I came back from break with a cast and crutches, it really threw them. Kids don't do well when things are different than what they're used to. I had to rely on them to pass out papers and set up the overhead, etc. They were really good about it, but man did they start rumors about how I broke my foot. Skiing, hangliding, you name it. If only it was so glamorous.

Anyway, that was the last time I had a Christmas tree. The following year I was in the same apartment, and was a little leery. After that, I moved to my condo and didn't really have a place to put one up. Since I spend Christmas day at my parents' anyway, it didn't seem all that important to me. But this year, with the tree practically falling in my lap and having the perfect spot to set it up, I just couldn't resist. It makes me smile every time I come down the stairs!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What goes up...

Update: YouTube video was taken down. I replaced it with another copy.

What happens when you tie hundreds of helium balloons to a car? Fast forward to 1:45 to find out...

Helium Balloons Lift Car - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My desk

Not too busy at work today, so I took a picture of my desk and thought I'd post it because I think what's on their desk says a lot about a person.

Let's go clockwise starting at the top left with the Dasani water bottle. I drink a liter a day, a luxury I could never afford as a teacher with bathroom breaks so limited. I don't carry a bottle with me on the weekend, though, so I sometimes get headaches from being dehydrated.

Behind the water bottle you can kind of see a file organizer with red folders. Those are old. The procedures I follow now to set up my trainings are paper-free. The folders still get made, to hold copies of the contracts and invoices. But I don't deal with them anymore. The folders in my organizer are for customers that I've been trying to get scheduled for months. And months. They are not on my good side.

In front of the folder organizer is my mini Zen garden, complete with tiny pebbles and a rake. I play with it during trainings, because I could do them with my eyes closed, and need some sort of distraction so I don't go out of my mind with boredom.

To the right is a tube of Bath & Body Workds anti-bacterial hand lotion, in Brown Sugar and Fig. It's one of my favorite scents. I must always have lotion on my hands, just as I must always have lip balm on my lips.

In the way background (you know what I mean) you can barely make out my oil warmer. I got it at the flea market and I have it on most days to freshen the air. When I put new oil in, everyone always asks, "What's that great smell?" "Oh, that's just Melissa's office." That makes me happy. :-)

Next is my mini water fountain. It works with the hand pump--you can see the tube looping around and the squeezy thing sitting next to the rubber band. It's fun! Another distraction during trainings.

The pink and purple cube is a puzzle I bought at a toy store in Vermont, and put together at the airport waiting for my delayed flight (which ultimately was cancelled). It said "for ages 5 and up," but still took me about an hour to solve. (Should I have admitted that publicly?)

Then there's the neon Slinky, with a stress ball inside. Do you detect a pattern here? I love toys and need things to keep my hands busy while I deal with our mostly nice, but mostly slow customers.

Sitting inside the water fountain tubing is a "new" nickel, the kind with Jefferon's profile, and a buffalo on the back. I am nuts when it comes to coins. I pay with cash so infrequently these days, and when I do, I never give the exact amount just so that I can see what change I get. I need Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah from 2007. Seems harder to come by new quarters here in NC.

Body Shop almond oil nail & cuticle balm is to my fingertips what lotion is to my hands, and lip balm is to my lips. I must have it everyday, or my cuticles are so dry and ragged looking. Burt's Bees makes a lemon butter kind, which is also lovely.

The rubber band, paper clip, and battery hold no story. In fact, I should put them away right now.

Pens! I love pens. The black one I got on clearance at Target. It writes smoothly, but not as well as the blue Foray pen I was using until it recently ran out of ink. That was the best pen EVER. I prefer the retractable kind because then you don't have caps to lose. The pink pen was also on clearance at Target. Sometimes I am asked to proofread stuff, and it's easier to see the corrections when they are in brilliant pink than boring black.

The cell phone is for on-call. I take on-call shifts about 98% of the time. The only time I don't is when I'm traveling. I don't mind it, because I have no life anyway. I go straight home from work, and I'm not usually busy on the weekend, so hey, might as well get some money. (If I do step out, like to the grocery store or something, I have a laptop with an aircard so I can still get online.) I don't mind helping people, as long as they're polite. But we're getting into the time of year where I get woken up at 5am to launch calls, and that is more than a teensy bit irritating. The work cell phone is always charged and on, and I often forget to charge my own phone.

Lastly, you can see the edge of my headset base. I don't like to do trainings on speakerphone, because I think the audio quality is compromised, especially since the customer is usually on speakerphone. So I use a headset. Leaves my hands free for important business, like playing with my Slinky or my Zen garden. And some occasional typing.

So what's on YOUR desk?

Monday, December 03, 2007


Spotted in Greenville, NC:

Just in case you can't read it:

Consider them decked

The halls, that is. At least outside. No inside halls are sporting deckage as of yet. Out in CA, it seemed that everyone had their lights up already, and it was only a couple of days after Thanksgiving! In my neighborhood, only about 10% of the houses have lights on. I got the eco- and penny-conscious LED lights and think they look just fine. I'm not done yet...still have to do the other side of the porch...but I need another extension cord. So it's kinda lopsided right now, but it's better to have lopsided festivity than no festivity, if you ask me.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First eHarmony Date

One-word summary: lame.

I bought a new red sweater just for the occasion and looked rather spiffy, if I do say so myself. He showed up in baggy jeans and and old sweatshirt. We'd decided ahead of time that we would grab a bite to eat and then see Bee Movie. I left it to him to settle on the details. He had me meet him in front of his apartment. Twenty minute drive for me, zero for him. Granted, he lives in North Hills, which is convenient to restaurants and a theater, so I'll overlook this inequity.

He listed the nearby places to eat, and asked me to choose. I narrowed it down to two and left it up to him. He chose Panera. We walked over there, ordered, and sat down. The conversation didn't exactly flow smoothly, but that is not abnormal for a first date. He kept bringing up topics we had already gone over thoroughly in our email exchanges, though, so I felt like I was repeating myself. He went over his previous eHarmony date experiences: married, 68, stalker, bitter. He said he's not going to renew when his membership is up in two weeks, because it's just "too much work." His words: "I get like, 10 matches a day, about 5 of them communicate with me, it's just exhausting. I've got about 25 in open communication now." Holy crap. I have two in open communication. Something is wrong here, because he is NOT the catch of the decade, so why all the interest? I think there must be way more women than men in the system. No wonder all the guys are so picky--they have scores of women to choose from!

He asked about my job, which we had not discussed. My profile says I'm a software trainer. "How did you get to THAT from teaching?" Um, it's not exactly that big of a stretch to go from teaching kids to training adults, but he made it sound as if I switched from teacher to streetsweeper or something. So I explained what I do, and he seemed thoroughly bored. It was at this point that I noticed he had yet to smile since we met, and he did not seem particularly engaged in our conversation or interested in what I was saying. He kept nodding his head ever so slightly, accompanied by the slow blink, as if to say, "Yeah, yeah, I get it, who cares, move on already." I really don't think this was me being ultra sensitive, either. I already knew all about his job (he's a high school social studies teacher), but we talked about it nonetheless. He'd stayed up all night Sunday grading papers, and then took Friday off as a "mental health day" to catch up on his sleep. I asked why the all-nighter was necessary, when he had a four-day weekend previous. He got defensive, and then asked if I knew what kind of school he taught at. I knew it was kind of like a magnet school, but he launched into this diatribe about how it's ranked in the top 5 nationally (B.S., by the way), there are thousands of applications every year for 800 spots, etc. He brought up why I left teaching, which, again, we'd already discussed, and when I explained my frustration with student behavior, he said (rather haughtily), "I never had those types of problems, even when I taught low-achievers." Okay then.

He only ate about half of his Caesar salad, because he said it tasted awful. I kept eating my sandwich, and had about two bites left when he said, "Shall we walk around?" Um, how about you let me finish first? So we went outside and walked around all the little shops there in North Hills. I tried my best to make conversation, keep things upbeat and moving. We passed by Wolf Camera, so I asked him about the camera he's planning to buy, but he seemed completely uninterested in hearing my opinion, even though he'd been impressed before by my knowledge in this area. We had pretty much reached the theater when he said he wanted to go back because he wasn't feeling well. He walked me to my car and apologized for cutting things short, but he felt like he was going to throw up. At that point, the date officially entered the Hall of Shame. Less than an hour after I arrived, I was heading home. That was Friday--haven't heard from him since, which is probably just as well.

Back to square one!