Just right for the garden: a mini-cow

September 2, 2008

August 17, 2008

Just right for the garden: a mini-cow
Miniature cattle farming is catching on with families trying to stay ahead of rising food pricesChris Gourlay
It’s the little cow with a big future. Rising supermarket prices are persuading hundreds of families to turn their back gardens into mini-ranches stocked with miniature cattle.

Registrations of the most popular breed, the Dexter, have doubled since the millennium and websites are sprouting up offering “the world’s most efficient, cutest and tastiest cows”.

For between £200 and £2,000, people can buy a cow that stands no taller than a large German shepherd dog, gives 16 pints of milk a day that can be drunk unpasteurised, keeps the grass “mown” and will be a family pet for years before ending up in the freezer.

The Dexter, a mountain breed from Ireland, is perfect for cattle-keeping on a small scale, but other breeds are being artificially created to compete with it, including the Mini-Hereford and the Lowline Angus, which has been developed by the Australian government to stand no more than 39in high but produce 70% of the steak of a cow twice its size.

Home on the range for the Farrant family is a detached house with a large garden on the outskirts of Ashford, Kent. Bernard Farrant and his wife Sue, both teachers, have bought four Dexters.

“With high food prices, they are actually quite an attractive option if you like producing your own food,” said Sue Farrant. “Both my husband and I have full-time jobs so we’re keeping them on the side as an interest. They do largely look after themselves and they’ve been hugely popular with the children.” Her husband said: “They have a phenomenal reputation for the quality of the beef. I think they are proving very attractive to families who have a bit of land and are interested in organic produce. From an economic point of view, we get to eat as much meat as we want and we roughly break-even, but you can sell what you don’t eat.

“As long as you’ve got plenty of grass they will be fine. You don’t really have to feed them.”

More than 4,100 Dexter cows were registered last year by the Dexter Cattle Society, which monitors the breed – more than double the figure in 2000.

“People are realising that if you’ve got a couple of acres, you can just stick them there,” said Sue Archer, the society’s breed secretary. “They eat grass so they are very cost-effective and they have a lovely temperament.”

The Dexter originated in the south of Ireland in the 1800s as an ideal “cottager’s cow”, producing enough milk for the house, and a calf a year.

Today’s mini-cattleman follows a similar pattern, choosing to keep a single “house cow”, collecting the milk each day and using artificial insemination to produce one calf annually for meat. Many people start with one cow and let it produce a calf before sending it to slaughter at the age of two, when the meat is at its most tender and high in healthy omega3 fats.

A desire for organic food, fuelled by health concerns over factory farming and soaring food prices, means that many people now see growing their own food as a viable alternative. As many as 2% of households are now estimated to have their own fresh supply of eggs. In the last year food prices have increased by a record 13.7%. The cost of meat has risen 16.3%, while milk, cheese and eggs rose by 19%, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics last month.

In America, small cow breeds such as the mini-Hereford are catching on among professional farmers keen to save money as the cost of feed skyrockets. These Herefords consume about a third less feed than normal cows and produce proportionately more beef for the amount of grain they eat.

Among the Dexter Society’s growing membership is Pam Ayres, the poet and songwriter, who lives with her husband and two sons and has a small herd of mini-cows in her 20-acre Cotswolds property.

“The government has no interest in where our food comes from or how it tastes, so it’s nice to set your own welfare and quality standards,” said Ayres, who is also a patron of the Battery Hen Welfare Trust.

“If you’ve got a bit of land, a breed like the Dexter can work out a lot cheaper than the supermarket, plus they do a pretty good job of mowing the lawn.”


August 2008

August 26, 2008



where you should wear your bear spray.

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 1:46 pm

August 3, around 4 pm.

I was running with my golden retriever, Charlie, in a place called the forestry trails, about 3 kilometers from Haines Junction, Yukon. The trails are mostly narrow about 1-2 meters, winding through a broad mature spruce forest. I left the narrow trail system and ran downhill onto a well traveled trail about 3 meters wide, and was heading back to my vehicle about 1 kilometer away. I was carrying a bear spray in a fanny back low on my back.

The road-trail was built many years ago, and there are good soapberry stands bordering the road. The berries have become fully ripened in the past few days. As I ran down the road I startled a blonde sow grizzly 30 feet off the road feeding on soapberries. She instantly spun and charged directly at me roaring very loudly. I froze. All I could see was a huge jumble of blonde hair hurtling my way.. I said ‘ Holy F…’. I think I jumped off the ground, completely engulfed in a helpless fear. The bear was less than 15 feet away and in full charge when Charlie suddenly appeared on the right, lunging up at the bear.

So far, this has all happened in two seconds – no more, and maybe even less. Then, miraculously, the bear skidded to a stop and immediately turned away from me and ran 90 degrees down the road after Charlie. Charlie’s perfect timing onto the scene was the first thing that saved my life. I have absolutely no doubt about this. The next few seconds are still surreal and appear fuzzy in my memory. I saw my only chance and ran to the nearest spruce tree, which was less than 10 feet away. This member of the boreal forest was the second thing that saved my life. It was 15 meters high, and fully branched right to the ground. The kind of tree you freely climbed when you were a kid – But that was more than 40 years ago for me. As I began climbing I began snapping and breaking branches in my haste and in my rusty style. Then I saw the bear stop about 40 feet down the road. She heard the branches breaking and she was instantly charging in my direction again. I continued climbing which seemed rather easier than when I looked into the branches seconds earlier. Then I saw the head of the bear appear a meter below, with only a low spruce branch separating us. As I climbed I was feeling like my climbing rate was way, way too slow to escape the bear; which I could see was now under the tree and beginning to stand. I felt I was nearly out of reach of the bear and I had this sudden, euphoric wave of unearned relief pass over me. But as I lifted my lower leg up to the next branch, I felt a sharp pinch on my right ankle. The bear snapped up and caught my achilles tendon area with a canine, but she mainly missed flesh and bone, tearing a a mouthful of wool sock, releasing my foot and giving me back my life. Strangely enough, I clearly remember saying ‘ouch!’ in surprise- though there was little pain.

I continued climbing. I was certain I was out reach of the bruin in a few seconds later. Meanwhile, Charlie barked and harassed the bear, running around the tree and dodging the bear’s advance. The bear would stop and chase the dog for a few meters, but Charlie easily avoid her. Eventually Charlie sat down on the trail and patiently waited for the bear to charge. Charlie would just up and move away when the bear got near. The bear returned to the tree, stood up and looked at me, then proceeded to run in a series of wide-arching paths through the surrounding forest and open meadow, always returning close to the tree. Charlie moved to the base of the tree, and from that moment the bear did not attempt to try to reach me. The bear continued to make these wide runs through the area, and always came back through the same pathway in the trees leading to a small opening just below my safety tree. She did not roar or make any other noise, except for her heavy breathing, and the heavy pounding of her body as she galloped below me occasionally. I remember thinking this is a beast of terrible power and speed.

After about 10 minutes of this, I decided to spray the bear as she did not seem to be losing her interest in me. As she walked back toward the tree on one of her runs, she stopped 20 feet away and looked up at me. I had the spray prepared and I aimed and released 3-4 seconds of orange cloud at her. The main cloud dissipate about 2 meters in front of the sow. She was not startled by the spray, but she was profoundly affected a few seconds later. She reeled back to snort and sniffle, then she began roaring loadly, and bawling. Within a few seconds she was running again, this time in an panic through the forest. She continually roared and snarled, and proceeded to break branches as she raced through the forest in a now familiar arc, always passing near my tree. She snapped and broke branches often. She continued in this state for another 10 minutes, and I began to worry that this area was well-travelled by people hiking, running and mountain biking. I began to worry my wife Caroline, would come looking for me as I was now late returning home.

While the sow was charging and roaring around the area, I heard two clear calls from another bear perhaps a few hundred meters away in the thick forest. I believe this was a cub of unknown age but I never saw the bear. I decided to shout at the sow loudly to prompt its departure. Up to this point, I had not said anything to the bear, complimentary or otherwise. I shouted ‘Hey you bear, get the f… out of here’ twice and I was suprised at how loud I sounded! The bear stood up and turned its head, obviously trying to locate where the strange new sound came from. Then it dropped and ran down the trail I was planning to depart on eventually, which made me more than a little uncomfortable. It returned a few seconds later and was back below me about 20 meters away in the soapberry patch I first encountered her. I shouted again, carefully choosing the same, base vocabulary. This time she ran quickly away and down a small hill into the forest where I had heard her cub earlier.

I waited in the tree expecting to hear the bear return. But after 5 minutes I had heard nothing. I very gingerly descended the tree trying not break or rustle the branch. I had my trusty bear spray in hand. I got onto the trail and walked slowly and quietly with my faithful dog Charlie at heel. I was back at my vehicle in about 10 minutes.

My wound is superficial, a compression bruise the size of a quarter along my heel. The bear’s tooth did not even break the skin. I have no pain or discomfort from this minor wound. I did self-inflict many scratches and cuts on my face, hands, legs, and arms from the spruce tree branches I was certain that I virtually.

I now feed Charlie special dinners that include what ever is on our table. And I love him even more. He was an exceptional dog, and now he is this exceptional dog that saved my life.

I strongly believe in bear spray, although I would never have been able to find it behind me and get it ready for use during the initial attack. I believe only 2-3 seconds passed from when I saw the bear reel to being nearly upon me. I also now believe that bear spray should be worn across the chest, and easily accessible if you are traveling in areas frequented by bears. It still may be useless in such an encounter but it is a better place that in a pack on your back.

I think about the absurdity of the last words that might be passing your lips in such times. You might think with all our education we could choose more proper expressions of fear.

I also believe that the bear was only doing what it instinctively knew it must do to protect its cub. For obvious reasons, I wonder about other possible outcomes. Did I manage to escape the bear’s jaws by a nanosecond advantage, or did she, in the end, change her mind and chose to not bite me severely then tear me out of the tree in a heartbeat? With a little less luck, I might still be alive, but sending this message from a hospital bed in considerably more desperate condition. More likely, I might be happily dead…

Stay safe-

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Wanted: home criteria

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:43 pm

Hello Universe,

In the interest of visualizing what I want, here it is:

– job that will pay me enough to not have to worry and pay down my student loan and be able to travel

– a job where I have some decision making power and need less than 2 signatures to make things happen

– a commute under 45 minutes by bus/car or scooter


– a yard/balcony/space where I can have a garden and 1-3 chickens (that Avi will not harass)

– a balcony for Avi (with no street access)

– a second bathroom (1/2 bathroom okay)

– a place to live that has at least 9 foot ceilings, space for a japanese soaker tub (like the kelowna ginsing farm) and oak flooring and a bright and sunny sewing room

– a place that has ‘urban energy’ and an active alternative scene and good dancing clubs

– a place that’s large enough where I can go unrecognized if I want to, but small enough that I don’t have to travel 2 hours to see friends.

– access to cafes and shops

– highspeed internet access

– a fireplace

– live near lots of friends and able to ‘drop by’ for cofeee

– abundant growing season

– cheap(er) cost of living.

– “feels like” Davie street./Downtown energy. Does this mean a big city?

– walking distance to a beach/riverfront/pond, etc. (water source on property)

– modern hippies, not ‘old-school hippies’

  Make it so!!!


“If you can imagine it, you can have it, Shawna. This is the name of the game. This is the lesson to learn. It couldn’t be any easier. Reality is not what your eyes show your mind, but what your mind creates for your eyes to see. You are not limited by logic, the past, or the world around you. You are not even of the world around you. You are supernatural, pure spirit. You came first. Magic, miracles, and luck are the consequences of understanding this, the inevitable result of dreaming and acting in spite of appearances.
You are ever so close. Simply stay the course. It won’t be very much longer.

    The Universe”

July 2008

August 26, 2008




starck admits those plastic chairs are crap. now if only designers would get the message….

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:46 pm



July 2, 2008

DEMOCRATIC DESIGN? Philippe Starck’s Designer Wind Turbine

Jill Fehrenbacher <! –>

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A few months ago, prolific product design star Philippe Starck shocked the world with his proclamation ‘Design is Dead’,
and the announcement of his pending retirement due to his frustration
with the ethical/consumption issues inherent to product design. Sounds
to us like Starck had some sort of a midlife crisis and came to a realization that everything he’s ever designed is totally useless:

“Everything I designed was unnecessary… and I am ashamed of this fact”

Of course, we could have told him this awhile ago – but were still a
bit surprised and frustrated about his pessimistic proclamation and
subsequent retirement. One would think that the most helpful and
sensible approach to the realization that one has been wasting one’s
time producing useless crap (like uncomfortable see-through plastic chairs and scarily alien looking lemon-juicers that can’t actually be used) – would be to STOP producing useless crap and start putting one’s talent to use to try to make a positive difference in the world.

And despite the melodramatic announcement this spring, perhaps this
is where Starck is headed after all, regardless of the threats of
giving up entirely. Recently Philippe Starck has brought an amazing
idea for renewable wind energy to life through a sleek new mini wind
turbine called ‘Democratic Ecology’.

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Philippe Starck’s personal invisible windmill ‘Democratic Ecology’ was introduced at Milan’s Greenergy Design
show earlier this year in a vibrant display relaying the intent to
enable every man, woman and child on Earth to generate their own power
in designer style. The transparent mini-turbine will be available to
all in September 2008 and, in typical Starck style, if everyone’s going
to have one he’s going to make sure they all look great.


1 comment


Gardening post

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:36 pm

(06-22) 17:20 PDT – Anne Fisher Vollen used to have a box of organic vegetables delivered to her home every week, and religiously separated her family’s food scraps from the trash. Yet the mother of two children and the co-founder of a startup company didn’t have the energy to cultivate her own plot of land.

Last month, Vollen, 44, and her husband, Gary Vollen, 45, turned to MyFarm, a new San Francisco business that took the family’s local and organic diet to a new level: by designing and planting an organic vegetable garden in their Marina district backyard. The Vollens pay MyFarm a weekly fee to maintain and harvest the vegetables that have just started to mature. They can gaze at their garden and dig into just-picked lettuce without so much as touching dirt.

“I joke that my backyard was the only thing more neglected than my children since I started the business out of my home,” said Vollen, co-founder of Green Zebra, a coupon book, guide and Web site focusing on local green businesses.

Plenty of city dwellers already raise vegetables, and even chickens, in tiny outdoor spaces, but MyFarm fits into the larger nationwide urban agriculture movement, in which cities, residents, nonprofit organizations and activists are reclaiming urban spaces for food production. In the past few years, San Francisco has seen several instances of so-called guerrilla gardening, when community organizers transformed abandoned private and public lots into minifarms in the Richmond District and Bernal Heights.

In some ways it’s a throwback to the Victory Gardens, a World War II government-sponsored program in which as much as 40 percent of the country’s nonmilitary produce was grown in urban and suburban backyards. San Francisco recently resurrected the idea with Victory Gardens 2008+, a project that will involve planting vegetables in backyards and in Civic Center Plaza as part of the Slow Food Nation event taking place over Labor Day weekend.

MyFarm is a for-profit variation that aims to serve many similar goals: to conserve energy by growing produce where people eat it, and to beautify and make use of underutilized land.

Decentralized urban farm

Founder Trevor Paque, 29, envisions what he calls a decentralized urban farm – a network of backyard organic vegetable gardens that will free urbanites from their reliance on food trucked in from the country. Clients who live in the sunny Mission District will grow tomatoes for denizens of the foggy Richmond, where broccoli and other cool-weather vegetables will thrive in customers’ backyards. And bicycles, rather than gas-guzzling trucks, will be the main method of transport.

It may sound pie-in-sky, but two months after putting up flyers, Paque already has installed 10 gardens and signed up an additional five clients. Having a farm in your backyard tends to soothe fears about salmonella-tainted tomatoes, rising food costs and the melting polar ice caps. Plus, it’s an affordable way to get some landscaping done.

Businesses like MyFarm are thriving in other parts of the country. Established in 2006, Your Backyard Farmer is a similar model in the Portland, Ore., area, and co-founder Donna Smith said she has consulted with offshoots in Santa Cruz, Boston and Washington, D.C. The Portland company also offers a program to help customers start and maintain their own gardens, with 57 “farms” total. It is booked through 2008.

Installation, maintenance

MyFarm installation costs $600 to $1,000, and maintenance costs $20 to $35 per week, depending on the garden’s size, and includes weeding, harvesting and composting. Those who opt to have larger gardens installed pay a smaller weekly fee and provide food to customers who, eventually, will be able to order a weekly vegetable delivery collected from MyFarm backyards.

The vegetable-box concept is modeled on the Community Supported Agriculture programs offered by dozens of Northern California farms, in which members receive weekly deliveries of seasonal produce direct from the farm.

Paque previously owned and ran a mortgage brokerage. A year ago, he left the business, deciding he didn’t want an office job anymore. He apprenticed at Three Stone Hearth, a Berkeley cooperative that prepares and sells nutrient-rich meals for delivery or pickup. He also volunteered with Christopher Shein, an instructor of permaculture at Merritt College.

Paque helped Shein install permaculture gardens, and he noticed that when they returned months later, the garden floor was often strewn with rotten fruit and many of the plants were going to seed. It was obvious the food wasn’t being harvested.

“Most people are too busy to go back in their backyard and water and harvest. So we do that for them,” Paque said of his new company, which is available only to San Francisco residents.

MyFarm also helps customers compost their food scraps in their backyard to enrich their own gardens, rather than adding the waste to their green curbside compost bins. Paque points out that normally the food waste – 350 tons a day, according to Mark Westlund of the city’s Department of the Environment – has to be trucked to Vacaville to break down into compost. The compost is then hauled to Northern California organic farms, where diesel-burning tractors work it into the soil. The resulting vegetables then have to be driven back to the city.

Paque cites additional benefits of his model compared with large-scale farms, even organic ones. Instead of using tractors, Paque and his farmers do their work by hand and travel by bicycle as much as possible. In addition to organic methods, Paque follows permaculture farming principles, which emphasize reducing stress on the soil.

The gardens end up taking various shapes, but the standard design is for 4-by-4-foot raised beds. Each bed is large enough to produce enough small vegetables for one person; two adults might want to order three to four beds.

With a new client, Paque first does a site analysis, checking for adequate sunlight and taking soil samples to check for contaminants and nutrient levels. If a customer signs up, Paque and employees spend a day or two installing the garden.

They pull out invasive weeds, then put down a layer of recycled cardboard that will act as a weed barrier and eventually turn to compost. They top it with finished compost and organic soil, and install drip irrigation. Later, they plant the soil with young starts and seeds, using straw as mulch.

The vegetables can include carrots, onions, garlic, bush beans, spinach, beets, peas, herbs and native flowers. In the Mission, they add sun-loving peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.

Diets rich in nutrients

A few of Paque’s customers found out about MyFarm through the local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a group dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to people’s diets. Judy Bonhiver, 57, recently had MyFarm install a garden in her Noe Valley front yard.

“The price of food is going up, yet I still want to buy local and seasonal produce,” Bonhiver said.

Jack and Gay Reineck, 64 and 65, also just had a garden installed behind their Cole Valley home. Although they grow vegetables and blueberries at their weekend house in Sebastopol, the busy graphic designers don’t have time to do it in San Francisco, where they have lived for 30 years and normally shop at organic produce stores.

“The broccoli is only half the size of big heads of broccoli in the store. It’s way more tender and concentrated even than the vegetables you buy at the natural-food store,” Jack Reineck said.

But what people sometimes don’t realize is that homegrown food can still be potentially hazardous, said Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis.

“They think if it’s from my backyard and it’s organic, it can’t be a source of harmful bacteria,” she said. “Birds fly, bunnies hop, rats and other wild animals can visit the location and leave no sign, yet their droppings can be there in the soil.”

Bruhn recommends that all produce get a thorough washing, regardless of its origins.

Urban agriculture resources

Guerrilla gardening. Visit guerrillagardening.org. Click on Community and navigate to San Francisco.

Free Farm Stand. This volunteer-run organization offers produce grown in local backyards free to the public, especially to low-income people. Sundays 1-3 p.m., Parque Niños Unidos at the corner of 23rd Street and Treat Avenue. freefarmstand.org.

MyFarm. For more information, visit http://www.myfarmsf.com/.

People’s Grocery. Nonprofit with programs to increase access to healthy food in West Oakland, including urban agriculture. peoplesgrocery.org.

Quesada Gardens Initiative. Community of Bayview residents who tend a vegetable garden on a city median. quesadagardensblog.blogspot.com.

Three Stone Hearth. A Berkeley cooperative that sells nutrient-rich prepared meals for pickup or delivery, following the principles of Weston A. Price. threestonehearth.com or e-mail info@threestonehearth.com.

Victory Gardens 2008+. A San Francisco pilot project to create more vegetable gardens in backyards, parks and rooftops: sfvictorygardens.org.

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Recent No Impact Man post:

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:02 am

In the last, for a while, of the LV GRN posts about how to bring No Impact measures to your own life, I’ve decided to list 42 ways we adopted to avoid making trash. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll have seen these before. But I thought the newer readers might like to take a look. The list is in no particular order:
No soda in cans (which means we’re probably less likely to get cancer from aspartame).
No water in plastic bottles (which means we get to keep our endocrines undisrupted).
No coffee in disposable cups (which means we don’t suffer from the morning sluggishness that comes from overnight caffeine withdrawal).
No throwaway plastic razors and blade cartridges (I’m staging the straightedge razor comeback).
Using non-disposable feminine-hygiene products that aren’t bad for women and are good for the planet.
No Indian food in throwaway takeout tubs.
No Italian food in plastic throwaway tubs.
No Chinese food in plastic throwaway tubs.
Taking our own reusable containers to takeout joints (except that now we’re eating local so this tip is out for us).
Admitting that we sometimes miss Indian, Italian and Chinese takeout.
Hopping on the scale and celebrating the loss of my 20-pound spare tire since I stopped eating bucketsful of Indian, Italian and Chinese takeout.
Buying milk in returnable, reusable glass bottles.
Shopping for honey and pickled veggies and other goods in jars only from merchants who will take back the jars and reuse them.
Returning egg and berry cartons to the vendors at the farmers’ market for reuse.
Using neither paper nor plastic bags and bringing our own reusable bags when grocery shopping.
Canceling our magazine and newspaper subscriptions and reading online.
Putting an end to the junk mail tree killing.
Carrying my ultra-cool reusable cup and water bottle (which is a glass jar I diverted from the landfill and got for free).
Carrying reusable cloths for everything from blowing my nose to drying my hands to wrapping up a purchased bagel.
Wiping my hands on my pants instead of using a paper towel when I forget my cloth.
Politely asking restaurant servers to take away paper and plastic napkins, placemats, straws, cups and single-serving containers.
Explaining to servers with a big smile that I am on a make-no-garbage kick.
Leaving servers a big tip for dealing with my obsessive-compulsive, make-no-garbage nonsense, since they can’t take the big smile to the bank.
Pretending McDonalds and Burger King and all their paper and plastic wrappers just don’t exist.
Buying no candy bars, gum, lollypops or ice cream (not even Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup) that is individually packaged.
Making my own household cleaners to avoid all the throwaway plastic bottles.
Using baking soda from a recyclable container to brush my teeth.
Using baking soda for a deodorant to avoid the plastic containers that deodorant typically comes in (cheap and works well).
Using baking soda for shampoo to avoid plastic shampoo bottles.

Keeping a worm bin to compost our food scraps into nourishment that can be returned to the earth instead of toxins that seep from the landfills.
Switching to real—meaning cloth—diapers which Isabella, before she was potty-trained, liked much better.
Not buying anything disposable.
Not buying anything in packaging (and count the money we save because that means pretty much buy nothing unless it’s second hand).
Shopping for food only from the bulk bins and from the local farmer’s market where food is unpackaged and fresh.
Forgetting about prepackaged, processed food of any description.
Being happy that the result is that we get to eat food instead of chemicals.
Giving our second-hand clothes away to Housing Works or other charities.
Offering products we no longer need on Freecycle instead of throwing them away.
Collecting used paper from other people’s trash and using the other side.
Using old clothes for rags around the apartment instead of paper towels.
Talking with humor about what we’re doing because making a little less trash is a concrete first step everyone can take that leads to more and more environmental consciousness.

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being a grown up

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:39 am


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When baby’s smiling, reward centres in mom’s brain are activated, MRI shows

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 10:52 am

When baby’s smiling, reward centres in mom’s brain are activated, MRI shows

Jul. 07, 2008

Provided by: The Canadian Press
Written by: Anne-Marie Tobin, THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – Parents might say a baby lights up their life, but a new study shows that an image of a smiling baby also “lights up” the reward centres of the mother’s brain.

Researchers wanted to find out more about the effects of different factors in child development, and made use of a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine to scan the moms’ brains as they looked at photos of their own baby as well as unknown babies.

“One of the most critical factors is the relationship an infant develops with the parent,” said Dr. Lane Strathearn, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“So I wanted to look at those factors more closely,” he said in a phone interview from Houston.

The researchers recruited 28 pregnant women in their final trimester who remained in the study for a year and a half.

Strathearn said that several months after birth, the research team videotaped the babies, and extracted still images of their faces in all different stages of emotion – smiling, crying, neutral and everything in between.

“And then we were able to use these images to present to the mothers while they were being scanned in the MRI scanner, to look at how their brains responded when they saw pictures of their own baby compared to a matched unknown baby that they’d never seen before,” he said.

During the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers were particularly interested in parts of the mother’s brain involved in reward processing, and associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine.

“When we did the analysis, we looked at the mothers’ responses to her own baby’s smiling compared to an unknown baby smiling, and also neutral and crying comparisons,” Strathearn said.

“And it was really just the smiling faces where we saw difference in activation in these dopamine-reward processing regions of the brain. So we saw that when the mothers saw their own baby smiling these areas were very strongly activated in comparison to the unknown baby face.”

He said it reinforced to researchers that the emotional response a mother has when her baby smiles activates reward pathways in the brain.

And this, in turn, reinforces and establishes caregiving behaviours in the mother, he surmised.

“We think that these cues that mothers receive from their babies actually process and stimulate a mother’s response to her baby with regard to responsive caregiving.”

But the researchers didn’t notice any significant difference in the mothers’ brains when they were looking at images of their own baby crying and an unknown baby crying. And likewise, when the babies had neutral expressions on their faces.

The researchers are further analyzing their data to see if they can detect differences in the responses of women based on their different styles of attachment to their babies.

“And we think this may have important implications in cases where that relationship doesn’t become established as we would normally hope, and that may predispose to problems with child neglect or even child abuse,” Strathearn said.

His study is not the first to involve brain scans and baby faces.

Researchers at Oxford University published a study in the online edition of a Public Library of Science journal in February that showed images of baby faces elicited a response in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, while images of adult faces did not.

Strathearn said the women in his study spent about 20 minutes in the MRI machine.

“It was interesting, some of the mothers when they did come out of the scanner told me that they felt like reaching out to their baby when they saw their baby on the screen – for some of these mothers at least, it was really a very strong stimulus for them, even being in the noisy scanner, lying completely still.”

“The most important thing is that this response that mothers have to their babies is biologically driven. That there are particular brain systems in place to help forge this important relationship between a mother and baby. I think where it leads now is to look at where those systems aren’t working normally, aren’t functioning as we’d hope they would, and how that may be associated with difficulties in the relationship between mothers and their babies.”

Dr. Jean Wittenberg, head of the Infant Psychiatry Program at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, said it’s an important and interesting study.

“It’s part of a general development in psychiatry and neuropsychology looking at finding the areas of the brain related to specific behaviours,” he said. “It’s a way of helping us understand more about the psychosomatic continuum.”

Maternal responses are both psychological and physical and “each one has influence and impact on the other,” he said.

Wittenberg noted that what happens in the first couple of years sets down patterns that can be lifelong.

Caring for an infant can be tedious and frustrating, he said, but if the mother is rewarded, it becomes worthwhile.

“Mothers are responding very specifically to their own babies in a physiological way,” he said.

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people, history, lives lined

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:27 pm

Yes I like to read obituaries, but apparenlty I’m ot the only one:
Coilhouse reads them too:  http://coilhouse.net/2008/07/05/the-tarnished-beauties-of-blackwell-oklahoma/#more-1261

It’s like two sides of one coin:
On one hand you can read the obituaries and imagine teh people that went with them
You at look at the pictures and imagine the stories behind them.

I used to look at the picture of my great great paternal grandfather Saul and wonder why he had no hair. no eybrow, no eyelashes, no nothing. I always imagined he had some outrageous rare disease. I was recently told it was just a side effect from the 1918 flu.

Take this obituary:




DORMORIZ Walter (Wally) Paul September 25, 1928 – June 19, 2008

Wally was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and in
1950 he and his wife “Kayda” moved to Tahsis, B.C. In 1964, he then
moved his family to Richmond, B.C., and continued a successful and
proud career as a Millwright/Welder, before retiring from Eburne
Sawmill in 1994. Wally is predeceased by his first wife Kathleen, his
youngest son Paul, and beloved partner Dianne.
Wally is
also predeceased by his mother Doris of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and
survived by his family in Winnipeg, including his brother “Butch”
(Ronald), and his sisters, Lori and Louise, along with their families”

Why does his brother go by “Butch”?
What made him a welder?
Why did he leave Winnipeg?
Did he have an affair with Dianne?
When did he meet Dianne?


HILLMAN Claude Alfred March 10, 1924- July 1, 2008

Claude was born in the back room of his parents store
at 12th and Commercial, Vancouver. Claude was a kind and gentle man who
cared deeply for his family. In his life he was a War Veteran, an avid
reader, a lover of the natural world, a motorbike enthusiast, devils
advocate and a wise old owl. He worked for Canada Post for 23 years,
beginning as a postal clerk and retiring as Postmaster of Powell River
and the Sunshine Coast.


So may people and so many stories!


comments (0)

fabric looooove

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:18 pm

it’s not often I share my fabric love, but check out these prints.

and they’re on sale. Some you’ve seen before, some are new. The sale ends soon: http://reprodepot.com/allmait.html

They’d make perfect blinds( with blackout drapery): http://reprodepot.com/mk53726560.html
in a room: http://www.kiitosmarimekko.com/vithfainro4.html


or shower cutains: http://reprodepot.com/mk60894710.html

on a wall: http://www.kiitosmarimekko.com/vithfainro33.html

framed wall art: http://reprodepot.com/mk53828190.html

fantasty apolstered headboard cover: http://reprodepot.com/mk52131701.html

kitchen print: http://reprodepot.com/mk54572160.html

The fabric: http://reprodepot.com/samovaari.html
the related dress: http://www.kiitosmarimekko.com/mashdr.html

Or maybe just spoonflowering my fav. print with a bit of a change is the way to go?

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study’s long term results: psilocybin

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:04 am

Study finds long benefit in illegal mushroom drug

Jul. 01, 2008

Provided by: Canadian Press
Written by: Malcolm Ritter, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK – In 2002, at a Johns Hopkins University laboratory, a business consultant named Dede Osborn took a psychedelic drug as part of a research project.

She felt as if she was taking off. She saw colours. Then it felt like her heart was ripping open.

But she called the experience joyful as well as painful, and says that it has helped her to this day.

“I feel more centred in who I am and what I’m doing,” said Osborn, now 66, of Providence, R.I. “I don’t seem to have those self-doubts like I used to have. I feel much more grounded (and feel that) we are all connected.”

Scientists reported Tuesday that when they surveyed volunteers 14 months after they took the drug, most said they were still feeling and behaving better because of the experience.

Two-thirds of them also said the drug had produced one of the five most spiritually significant experiences they’d ever had.

The drug, psilocybin, is found in so-called “magic mushrooms.” It’s illegal, but it has been used in religious ceremonies for centuries.

The study involved 36 men and women during an eight-hour lab visit. It’s one of the few such studies of a hallucinogen in the past 40 years, since research was largely shut down after widespread recreational abuse of such drugs in the 1960s.

The project made headlines in 2006 when researchers published their report on how the volunteers felt just two months after taking the drug. The new study followed them up a year after that.

Experts emphasize that people should not try psilocybin on their own because it could be harmful. Even in the controlled setting of the laboratory, nearly a third of participants felt significant fear under the effects of the drug. Without proper supervision, someone could be harmed, researchers said.

Osborn, in a telephone interview, recalled a powerful feeling of being out of control during her lab experience. “It was … like taking off, I’m being lifted up,” she said. Then came “brilliant colours and beautiful patterns, just stunningly gorgeous, more intense than normal reality.”

And then, the sensation that her heart was tearing open.

“It would come in waves,” she recalled. “I found myself doing Lamaze-type breathing as the pain came on.”

Yet “it was a joyful, ecstatic thing at the same time, like the joy of being alive,” she said. She compared it to birthing pains. “There was this sense of relief and joy and ecstasy when my heart was opened.”

With further research, psilocybin (pronounced SILL-oh-SY-bin) may prove useful in helping to treat alcoholism and drug dependence, and in aiding seriously ill patients as they deal with psychological distress, said study lead author Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins.

Griffiths also said that despite the spiritual characteristics reported for the drug experiences, the study says nothing about whether God exists.

“Is this God in a pill? Absolutely not,” he said.

The experiment was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The results were published online Tuesday by the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Fourteen months after taking the drug, 64 per cent of the volunteers said they still felt at least a moderate increase in well-being or life satisfaction, in terms of things like feeling more creative, self-confident, flexible and optimistic. And 61 per cent reported at least a moderate behaviour change in what they considered positive ways.

That second question didn’t ask for details, but elsewhere the questionnaire answers indicated lasting gains in traits like being more sensitive, tolerant, loving and compassionate.

Researchers didn’t try to corroborate what the participants said about their own behaviour. But in the earlier analysis at two months after the drug was given, researchers said family and friends backed up what those in the study said about behaviour changes. Griffiths said he has no reason to doubt the answers at 14 months.

Dr. Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, called the new work an important follow-up to the first study.

He said it is helping to reopen formal study of psychedelic drugs. Grob is on the board of the Heffter Research Institute, which promotes studies of psychedelic substances and helped pay for the new work.

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carry Tennis, salon.com explains why to volunteer – thank you!

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:47 pm

The system of work as you know it is geared to competition and based in
fear. It is based on the premise that there is not enough and that no
one is going to help you. There is another way to live, based on the
premise that there is indeed enough, and that everyone is going to help
you. By helping others, and asking for help, you live in a different
Try that.
Try asking for help, and doing what is right and true
instead of what is practical and necessary.
Try doing what is important
– helping another cancer survivor buy groceries, helping someone who
has just been diagnosed figure out what to do next, helping someone
after surgery, helping the families of the sick and diagnosed and
recovering. Try helping.
Try helping, with the assumption — you do not
have to call it faith, you can just call it a working assumption –
that whether for sociological or psychological or spiritual reasons,
the help you give is going to return to you; you are in return going to
be helped, and loved, and carried forward.


June 2008

August 26, 2008

Mary oliver poem
Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 10:20 pm
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
-Mary Oliver
From New and Selected Poems
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8 ways to encourage a friend.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:49 pm
Another repost;

8 ways to encourage a friend.
Filed under: just musing — Jon Swanson @ 4:32 am
1. Take a picture (of your friend, of the two of you, of a cow, of a
sign). Print it out (snapfish, flickr, walgreens, your own printer).
Write a note telling them specifically how they are making a difference
in lives. Mail it to them.
2. When they are in the middle of a busy day, send them a text.
3. Remember their birthday (Facebook, your birthday email from last year).
4. Take five minutes and make a mindmap.
Here’s what that is: Put their name in the middle of a piece of paper.
Around it make 5 lists: odd things they do; ways they care about
others; objects or activities they love most; things THEY want to do
better (NOT what YOU want them to do better); people who speak well of
them. Put this paper next to your computer and include items from it in
your notes and emails and conversations with them. (It tells them you
thought about them).
5. Gossip good about them to a mutual friend.
6. Forgive them (don’t tell them about it, just forgive them).
7. Reply to their emails, even if just to acknowledge receipt.
8. Never assume they know you care.
comments (0)
Repost and comments
Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:08 pm
I never thought the day would come that I am reposting a National Post news story, but this time I am. Perhaps I am a non-politically correct person, but if billions of dollars, a whole day of government business time and a telelvised worldwide apology doesn’t work, why bother? Many people who are not Native had terrible boarding schoole xperiences and many kids of many nationalities and colours have been beaten and abused (sexually or otherwise) by adults. They have to pay for their own counselling, this native conmensation claim isn’t even directed at counselling (if someone knows more, please let me know). Anyway, count me as cynical. I like money thrown at solutions, not as apologies.
Another lesson in apology politics
Are the Tories getting too good at grovelling?
Don Martin, National Post Published: Monday, June 09, 2008
Tomorrow’s half-hour statement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to a hushed House of Commons will be the greatest grovel in Canadian history, completing a ten-year process of parliamentary remorse for the residential schools tragedy and starting another five years of reconciliation.
On a Commons floor filled with dignitaries, native leaders and survivors of the notorious school system, a formal apology will drag on for thousands of words, every syllable agonized over to ensure it was sufficiently contrite and conveying suitable gravitas.
The government, Parliament, indeed every Canadian will be apologizing without exception for every student’s experience, be it positive, negative or abusive.
But there are still high-level concerns it won’t be enough and, while unlikely, could be rejected by native leaders as a political stunt that isn’t sufficiently sincere. One senior government official involved in drafting the apology acknowledged in mid-gulp on an Ottawa beer patio: “Of course, we’re still not sure they’ll accept it.”
Beverage splattered. Excuse me?
Native leaders have not been allowed to view an advance draft of the statement and Assembly of First Nations chief Phil Fontaine was not involved, as he requested, in authoring the apology.
Now, I’m not sure how involving the victims in writing their own apology adds to the sincerity of the script, but this remorse-filled statement will dramatically dwarf other acts of regret that have gone before.
Still, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl allows there is “nervousness” at the potential reaction. “There’s a lot of anxiety because people are asking themselves the ‘what if?’ questions. What if he backs off or doesn’t say the right expressions?”
That seems unfathomable given the unprecedented attention it’s been given. The Commons will shut down for the entire day to focus all political attention on speeches by all political parties before native leaders participate in ceremonies in nearby rooms.
Compared to the Chinese head tax or Japanese internment camp apologies, this will elevate grovelling to an art form by a Parliament that has already had plenty of experience pleading for forgiveness on this file.
It’s been 10 years since Parliament first heard a government minister apologize for the residential schools debacle. “To those of you who suffered this tragedy at residential schools, we are deeply sorry,” said Jane Stewart, Indian Affairs minister in 1998.
The RCMP apologized for its role in the federally funded program in May, 2004.
The United Church of Canada weighed in as well, describing the students as “victims of evil acts that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused.”
The federal government apologized in every manner possible to some B.C. First Nations in 2000.
Finally, last year the House of Commons voted unanimously to apologize for the federal role in establishing and funding the schools.
And yet, Wednesday’s televised ceremonies will be doomed to disappoint in some quarters.
Ted Quewezance of the National Residential School Survivors Society, for example, insists the government describe the students as “kidnapped” and “imprisoned” while being “beaten, humiliated, starved, introduced to contagious diseases like tuberculosis and sexually abused.” Sorry, that’s not expected to happen.
There’s also (always) the demand for more money. “The Settlement Agreement does not compensate the pain and suffering, but it is only a small token to acknowledge this travesty,” Mr. Quewezance says.
At $2-billion-plus, that’s some “token.” And that doesn’t include the $60-million to launch a five-year search for tragic recollections by the truth and reconciliation commission or the $400-million total for aboriginal healing approved in 1998 and 2005.
There are whispers the Harper Cabinet is sick of saying it’s sorry for ancient events and feels if it starts saying it often enough, apologies will be debased to the point there’s no compensation liability or political risk attached.
That might explain why the Conservatives unexpectedly supported an official apology for turning away 376 Sikh passengers aboard the steamer Komagata Maru in 1914, pushed through by Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla last month.
One fed-up Liberal MP is quietly musing about proposing a Day of Apology so MPs can rise in the House to seek forgiveness from the victim of their choice.
Polling suggests the public hasn’t quite reached the point of being flippant or fed up with the government response to the residential schools tragedy.
But if money doesn’t talk and tomorrow’s glitzy apology doesn’t work, the mood may sour. Sincerity can’t be bought, but cynicism can.
National Post
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tooo true!!!!!!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:17 pm
The provincial government is sending each and every one of us a $100 rebate for the carbon tax.
If we spend that money at WalMart, the money will go to the U.S.
If we spend it on gas, it will go to the Arabs or Alberta.

If we purchase a computer, it will go to Taiwan.
If we purchase fruit and vegetables, it will go to Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.
If we purchase a good car, it will go to Japan or Korea or Europe.
If we purchase useless junk, it will go to China and none of it will help the B.C. economy.
The only way to keep that money here at home is to spend it on prostitutes and marijuana, since these are the only products still produced here in B.C.
> >>>>>>> Thank you for your help and support,
> >>>>>>> Gordon Campbell
> >>>>>>> Premier of British Columbia
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Complicity and Mental Illness
Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:23 pm

Second Opinion
We’re all to blame for staying mum on mental illness
From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
June 5, 2008 at 9:22 AM EDT
There is something we need to cry out long and loud: Joshua Lall was mentally ill.
Before the murderous rampage that left two of his children, his wife and a tenant dead, the 34-year-old Calgary man reportedly was hearing voices and feared he was possessed by the devil.
Mr. Lall’s family said he had told them he was having a “mental breakdown,” and according to an e-mail written by his wife he had been stressed out and unable to sleep for a long period of time – all classic signs of severe untreated mental illness and the psychosis that can grip those with depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
There are those who do not want to say Mr. Lall was mentally ill for fear of besmirching his memory. Apparently, there is one thing more shameful than being a mass murderer, and that is being crazy.
There are those who fear that openly discussing the role of mental illness in these killings will perpetuate negative stereotypes about those with mental illness.
Yet by tiptoeing around Mr. Lall’s apparent sickness, by not daring to speak aloud the words “mentally ill,” we are perpetuating the stigma that was likely a driving force in this tragedy.
Mr. Lall was sick. He was exhausted. He was hearing voices. He was probably frightened half to death.
And what did he do? He called his parents. He booked time off work. He hid.
By all accounts, Mr. Lall did not go to his employer and say, “I need help.” He didn’t reach out to friends. And he apparently did not seek medical help.
If, instead of hearing voices, Mr. Lall had been suffering heart palpitations, laboured breathing or other physical symptoms, do you think he would have hesitated for an instant before going to the emergency room or to a doctor?
If he had broken a leg, would he have booked a few days off work in hopes that it would heal before anybody noticed?
Why are physical wounds treated and mental wounds hidden?
In modern society, and the business world in particular (Mr. Lall toiled in a firm of architects), nobody wants to admit to mental health problems because to do so is a sign of weakness and a surefire career killer.
That’s why most mental health problems – two-thirds by some estimates – go undiagnosed and untreated. That’s why most people muddle through depression or ignore the strange voices rather than reach out for help. (And make no mistake, hearing voices and other forms of psychosis are a lot more common than most people realize.)
As the media dissected his life, Mr. Lall was portrayed as a loving father, a wonderful employee, a brilliant student and an all-round good guy.
But guess what? So are most people with mental illness. It is the most intelligent and educated who are best able to rationalize their symptoms and who most fear being exposed.
One in five Canadians will experience a bout of severe mental illness during their lifetime. The mentally ill are not only among us, they are us.
Yet we continue to view mental illness very differently from physical illness, as a type of moral failing and an affliction of losers.
There is no evidence that people with mental illness are more violent.
But there is clearly a subset of people with untreated mental illness who are a danger to themselves and others. Most of this violence is turned inward – as evidenced by the 3,500 or so suicides that occur in Canada annually.
But in the rare instances when people with untreated mental illness kill others, they disproportionately commit certain kinds of homicide – the murder of mothers and children tops the list.
Untreated mental illness destroys families in the most horrific ways imaginable.
In his psychotic state, the voices in Mr. Lall’s head no doubt told him to kill those he loved most, perhaps because they were possessed by the devil, or to free them from some hallucinatory danger.
But when he was not in a psychotic state, when he could rationally consider what was happening inside his brain, Mr. Lall undoubtedly heard other voices – the judgmental voices that are so commonplace in our society.
Stigma is what keeps most people from seeking the help they need. Stigma is what leads those with mental illness to put on a smile to hide the searing pain inside. Stigma is what leads to isolation and to dangerous spirals downward.
Mr. Lall stabbed to death his wife, Alison, two of their children, five-year-old Kristen and three-year-old Rochelle, and tenant Amber Bowerman. (He spared one-year-old Anna.)
He did so because he was sick and untreated. But Mr. Lall did not act alone.
We are all complicit in those murders. Complicit because we turn away rather than reach out to those suffering from mental illness. Complicit in allowing so many barriers to care to exist. Complicit because we pretend this could never happen to us.
Complicit because we refuse to say aloud that mental illness kills.
Complicit in our silence.

May 2008

August 26, 2008



Good news hero.

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 3:48 pm

Hero of the day

Talk about beyond the call of duty: A Chinese policewoman helped save the lives of nine babies by breast-feeding them after they were orphaned or separated from their mothers as a result of the May 12 earthquake. In a very sweet way, she’s all humble and ‘eh, whatever’ about it, too:

“I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies … This was a small thing, not worth mentioning.”

Right, except for the part where she kept nine babies alive in a plot twist that feels straight out of Steinbeck. The 29-year-old mother, Jiang Xiaojuan, has become a celebrity in China, and is being hailed as a hero on the papers’ front pages. As the death toll soars past 50,000, it’s nice to have a little good news to celebrate. You can remember Jiang next time someone complains about the evils of women popping out their boobs in public.

comments (0)



Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 1:06 pm

“Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air–explode softly –and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth–boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either–not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.?” -Robert Fulghum

How about we all buy a box of crayons today (you SO deserve 64 colors and don’t let anyone tell you different), or find the one we have hidden deep in the recesses ofthe place we call home, draw a 3″ square on a piece of paper, color it, perhaps even post it. What color is today? Tomorrow? We should be corny more often, perhaps. We should certainly use crayons more often.

comments (0)


When in LA….

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:08 pm

I hope that by teh time I am next in LA, they will still be holding Incandescence nights at Edison.

Details from coilhouse.com


Incandescence \In`can*des”cence\, n.
A white heat, or the glowing or luminous whiteness of a body caused by intense heat.

The sprawling Edwardian power plant-turned-nightclub was filled to the gills with a strange soup of carnies, stilt-walkers and Entourage types, and Lucent was in top form, performing continuously in various rooms to the delight and wonderment of all.

The Absinthe Fairy! Photo by Zoetica.


Tickets: $10 before 8pm, $20 after 8pm. $15 when you pre-order at Edison’s web site.

The Edison
108 W 2nd Street
Los Angeles, California 90012 (
(213) 613-0000

April 2008

August 26, 2008





Mom’s diet seen as factor in whether baby is boy or girl

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 4:37 pm

Mom’s diet seen as factor in whether baby is boy or girl

Apr. 23, 2008

Provided by: The Canadian Press
Written by: Lindsey Tanner, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHICAGO – Snips and snails and puppydog tails … and cereal and bananas?

That could be what little boys are made of, according to surprising new research suggesting that what a woman eats before pregnancy influences the gender of her baby.

Having a hearty appetite, eating potassium-rich foods including bananas, and not skipping breakfast all seemed to raise the odds of having a boy.

The British research is billed as the first in humans to show a link between a woman’s diet and whether she has a boy or girl.

It is not proof, but it fits with evidence from test tube fertilization that male embryos thrive best with longer exposure to nutrient-rich lab cultures, said Dr. Tarun Jain. He is a fertility specialist at University of Illinois at Chicago who wasn’t involved in the study.

It just might be that it takes more nutrients to build boys than girls, he said.

University of Exeter researcher Fiona Mathews, the study’s lead author, said the findings also fit with fertility research showing that male embryos aren’t likely to survive in lab cultures with low sugar levels. Skipping meals can result in low blood sugar levels.

Jain said he was skeptical when he first heard about the research. But he said the study was well-done and merits follow-up study to see if the theory proves true.

It’s not necessarily as far-fetched as it sounds. While men’s sperm determine a baby’s gender, it could be that certain nutrients or eating patterns make women’s bodies more hospitable to sperm carrying the male chromosome, Jain said.

“It’s an interesting question. I’m not aware of anyone else looking at it in this manner,” he said.

The study was published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British medical journal.

The research involved about 700 first-time pregnant women in the United Kingdom who didn’t know the sex of their fetuses. They were asked about their eating habits in the year before getting pregnant.

Among women with the highest calorie intake before pregnancy (but still within a normal, healthy range), 56 per cent had boys, versus 45 per cent of the women with the lowest calorie intake.

Women who ate at least one bowl of breakfast cereal daily were 87 per cent more likely to have boys than those who ate no more than one bowlful per week. Cereal is a typical breakfast in Britain and in the study, eating very little cereal was considered a possible sign of skipping breakfast, Mathews said.

Compared with the women who had girls, those who had boys ate an additional 300 milligrams of potassium daily on average, “which links quite nicely with the old wives’ tale that if you eat bananas you’ll have a boy,” Mathews said.

Women who had boys also ate about 400 calories more daily than those who had girls, on average, she said.

Still, no one’s recommending pigging out if you really want a boy or starving yourself if you’d prefer a girl.

Neither style of eating is healthy, and besides all the health risks linked with excess weight, other research suggests obese women have a harder time getting pregnant.

The study results reflect women at opposite ends of a normal eating pattern, not those with extreme habits, Mathews said.

Prof. Stuart West of the University of Edinburgh said the results echo research in some animals.

And Dr. Michael Lu, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and public health at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the results “are certainly plausible from an evolutionary biology perspective.” In other words, since boys tend to be bigger, it would make sense that it would take more calories to create them, Lu said.

Still, Lu said a woman’s diet before pregnancy may be a marker for other factors in their lives that could influence their baby’s gender, including timing of intercourse.

“The bottom line is, we still don’t know how to advise patients in how to make boys,” he said.

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eco friendly products

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 11:49 am

in honour of Earth Day and in my “window shopping not real shopping” mode I bring you the following:





A handcrafted handbag made from used truck/tractor tire inner tubes,  hand dyed leather or non-leather faux trim.   Every inner tube has different markings and raised lines which come from the original manufacturer of the inner tube.  Some have blemishes & scars which occur from the wear & tear of the road.
We use the finest hardware & materials to create the Passchal line.

 Passchal bags come with a light system that illuminates the interior of the bag that shuts off automatically.

Themessenger brief is $250 USD. I’m impressed, but it’s still a bit rich for me as my birthday money has already been allocated.




CARGO is changing the face of beauty by planting the seeds (literally) for a greener tomorrow. PlantLove™ is a collection of eco-friendly lipsticks. The lipstick case is a revolutionary innovation made entirely from corn. What’s more, the box the lipstick comes in grows wildflowers when planted!

$20 each at sephora. Which isn’t as expensive as I originally thought, but Burt’s Bees gloss is $8.


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money and shopping

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 7:54 pm

With phrases like this it’s not hard to wonder why fashion is labelled as frivolous:

“The British are the new Japanese, and New York is the new Italy –
the place to come to stock up on designer clothes,” says Raegan Morgan,
sales specialist at Diane von Furstenberg.
“We opened our downtown
store in May and, particularly since September, we’ve been inundated
with European visitors. The British especially really load up the
dressing rooms.”It is a bit like a United Nations effort to give
funds to a developing country, but with more of an emphasis on Ralph
Lauren and Levi’s.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 1:19 pm

From the Guardian Unlimited online: 

Hoodies or goodies?


The past century has seen society shift from child labour to child consumer. It is time to rethink what we mean by ‘childhood’

Bob Reitemeier

April 2, 2008 8:30 AM | Printable version

This past week witnessed another series of articles about our youth. Time magazine’s April 7 cover story presented British youth as “Unhappy, unloved and out of control”. Fran Abrams replied by writing in the Observer that “Young people today … actually, they’re great”. I believe both articles were well presented, but these headlines are typical of many of the discussions about youth today. We are asked to take a position – either children are out of control and childhood is in crisis, or they have never had it so good and we adults are completely overreacting.

The debate on youth may be unhelpfully polarised, but at least we are talking about our young people. Why is it important? Because the way in which childhood and youth is experienced today is, in many ways, dramatically different from previous generations. We owe it to our children to understand the differences, so that we can provide children with a good childhood.

The great social reforms of the Victorian period, and the founding of national children’s charities like the Children’s Society, were felt necessary precisely because of the way children were treated. Their needs were prominent partly because of how visible children were. In 1871, 38% of the population was under 14 years. In the five generations since then (to 2007, 136 years later), the proportion of under-14s has decreased to 17%. This means that half as many people in our society are under 14 today. The population bell curve has shifted dramatically, towards the elderly and away from children.

As an economic force, childhood is now very different from past generations. The role of children used to be as workers, and at very early ages. The 1861 census shows that 51% of the workforce was aged between 7 and 14 years. Now, their role is as consumers. Children are targeted through marketing and advertising to purchase goods, either themselves or by pestering their parents. This is not insignificant, when it is estimated that the market influenced by children is several billion pounds per year.

Last week’s Byron Review showed how advanced technology and the digital world has changed the way in which children access information almost beyond recognition. In her very thorough analysis, Dr Byron explores how the internet and video games influence children and, at the same time, how ignorant many of us adults are in trying to understand this. Where we see risks in new technology, children see opportunities.

A child’s family experience has also witnessed great shifts. The total fertility rate “if all women experienced motherhood” dropped from an equivalent family size of 5.2 children in 1897, to 3.5 children in 1901 and 1.7 children in 1997. Children were transferred from being an economic necessity to being seen as a personal choice. Over the 20th century, the proportion of households with children decreased from 61% in 1911 to less than 30% by 2007.

In historic terms, these are dramatic changes over a relatively short period of time. That is why the Children’s Society established the Good Childhood Inquiry, the first independent inquiry into childhood in the UK. The biggest mistake we could make as a nation would be simply to let changes of this magnitude evolve without critical analysis. The purpose in thinking about how childhood has changed is not to then decide which side of the debate – “crisis” or “never had it so good” – we wish to support. Rather, it is to ensure that by understanding how children’s experience of childhood is changing, we are able to make it as good an experience as possible.

This concerns all children. And this marks one of the main reasons why the debate becomes polarised so quickly. If this only concerned the poor and the most disadvantaged children, or if this only concerned those children breaking the law, then we would look at this discussion from a social policy lens. We would share views on how best to improve the condition of these marginalised children and their families. It would form part of our understanding of Britain as a welfare state.

But because the changing landscape of childhood affects all children – yours, mine and our neighbours, we feel a need to conclude the debate quickly, to arrive at an answer. Why? Because the thought of not understanding how childhood is changing is worrying. It might mean that we adults, and not the youth we read about, are not in control. That we are not paying sufficient attention to one of the most vital and critical social issues of our time – our children and their experience of childhood.

An important question to ask ourselves in this context is what do we most value in a child? The World Values Survey tells us that for adults in Britain, over the 1980s and 1990s, the top priorities were good manners and tolerance and respect for others. This might explain why some people feel that the answer is to get tougher with children, to lay down the law about bad behaviour and then enforce it. Of course, establishing boundaries for children’s behaviour is important; children themselves constantly tell us this. But, as responsible adults, we need to ensure that the debate about childhood today is not diminished by our perceived need for quick fixes.

March 2008

August 26, 2008

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:18 am
It is a site that allows you to collage using web-images and then group and blog them with others.
it’s a photoshop-blog-wiki
You can view groupings different categories (involving sunglasses), colours(all blue), themes (spring fling)
it’s so very awesome. I could waste a lot of time there.
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Use of health-care services differs depending on sexual preference: study
Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 2:17 pm
Mar. 19, 2008

OTTAWA – A new study has found the use of health-care services differs depending on sexual preference.
The Statistics Canada study examined whether sexual preference was a factor in health-care use between 2003 and 2005 – it looked at things like consulting health-care providers, having a regular doctor and using preventive procedures such as pap tests.
It found gay men were much more likely than heterosexual men to have consulted medical specialists or mental-health service providers such as social workers in the year prior to the survey.
Lesbians were less likely than heterosexual women to have seen a family doctor during the same period or to have undergone a pap test.
About 346,000 adults identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual in the survey, representing 1.9 per cent of the total population aged 18 to 59.
The study suggests the use of health-care services differs by sexual preference independent of other factors such as age, income, education and health status.
About 29 per cent of gay men consulted a medical specialist in the 12 months before the survey, compared with 19 per cent of heterosexual men.
Similarly, eight per cent of gay men consulted a psychologist, nearly triple the proportion of three per cent among their heterosexual counterparts. About seven per cent of gay men consulted social workers or counsellors, compared with four per cent of heterosexual men.
There were no differences between bisexual and heterosexual men in consultations with doctors. However, bisexual men had more frequent contact with social workers or counsellors.
Seventy-seven per cent of lesbians had seen a family doctor in the 12 months before the survey, compared with 83 per cent of heterosexual women.
On the other hand, 10 per cent of lesbians consulted a psychologist, as did 11 per cent of bisexual women, well above the proportion of only four per cent among heterosexual women.
Seven per cent of lesbians and nine per cent of bisexual women attended a self-help group, while only three per cent of their heterosexual counterparts did so.
About 17 per cent of bisexual women had contact with social workers or counsellors, nearly three times the proportion of six per cent among heterosexual women.
Statistically similar proportions of gay, bisexual and heterosexual men reported that they did not have a regular doctor.
But 19 per cent of lesbians and 24 per cent of bisexual women did not have a regular doctor, as opposed to only 12 per cent of heterosexuals.
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Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:47 pm

Konarka Technologies, the Massachusetts-based company we first recognized with a 2005 Breakthrough Award for its affordable Power Plastic solar film, said this week that it has successfully manufactured those thin solar cells using an inkjet printer. In addition to decreasing production costs because it relies on existing inkjet technology, the printable Power Plastic cells can be applied to a range of small-scale, highly variable power opportunities, from indoor sensors to small RFID installations…
By 2009 at the latest, Konarka plans to bring multiple forms of its product to market—everything from tiny cells for sensors to fabric-based and larger building panels. Hess says the company is currently working with U.S. Green Building Council LEED designers on custom installations.
The burning question for DIYers and eco-conscious geeks alike remains whether we can expect to see rolls of Power Plastic on the shelves of home improvement stores anytime soon. Not exactly, Hess says. “Check back in two years and we’ll have an update.”

Link: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4253464.html?series=15

February 2008

August 26, 2008


Mono colour Dressing

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 1:23 pm

Thanks to Dressaday.com I was sent the link to an article profiling people who only wore one colour http://nymag.com/fashion/08/spring/44210/

i.e. people who wear blue all day, everyday.


They certainly make Christmas shopping easy! 

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Castro Resigns

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 2:02 pm

Message from the Commander in Chief

Dear compatriots:

Last Friday, February 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. Thus, this now is rather a message.

The moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice-Presidents and Secretary.

For many years I have occupied the honorable position of President. On February 15, 1976 the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95% of the people with the right to cast a vote. The first National Assembly was established on December 2nd that same year; this elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a Prime Minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.

There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final. But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition.

It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply.

Later, in my necessary retreat, I was able to recover the full command of my mind as well as the possibility for much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with the corresponding rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated that such activity was within my reach. On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery “was not without risks.”

My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer.

To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.

In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table National TV Program, –letters which at my request were made public– I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my intention. I trusted Randy, whom I knew very well from his days as a student of Journalism. In those days I met almost on a weekly basis with the main representatives of the University students from the provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived. Today, the entire country is an immense University.

Following are some paragraphs chosen from the letter addressed to Randy on December 17, 2007:

“I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems facing Cuban society, which has, as an average, a twelfth grade of education, almost a million university graduates, and a real possibility for all its citizens to become educated without their being in any way discriminated against, require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct.

“My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute my own experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era that I had the privilege of living in.

“Like Niemeyer, I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end.”

Letter from January 8, 2008:

“…I am a firm supporter of the united vote (a principle that preserves the unknown merits), which allowed us to avoid the tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his solidarity towards Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we had chosen.”

And I reiterated in that letter that “…I never forget that ‘all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.”

Therefore, it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.

Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early stages of the process. Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on the mountains and later they have given glory to the country with their heroic performance and their internationalist missions. They have the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement. There is also the intermediate generation which learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult and require from everyone’s intelligent effort. I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its antithesis the self-flagellation. We should always be prepared for the worst variable. The principle of being as prudent in success as steady in adversity cannot be forgotten. The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.



Fidel Castro Ruz

February 18, 2008

5:30 p.m.

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a continuation of the cat cartoon

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 7:41 pm


1 comment


Notes from the Universe

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 5:27 pm

Today I found out about an email service that emails you Thoughts from the universe every morning. As a former Flybaby, who used to receive orgnizational notes 3 times a day, I appreciate the scaled back version of these notes.

These inspirational, philosophical and often humorous notes
are meant to remind you of the awesome power you possess for
the creative manipulation of “all things time and space” –
especially your happiness!

the Oath :

the face of adversity, uncertainty and conflicting sensory
information,  I hereby pledge to remain ever mindful of the magical, infinite,
loving reality  in which I live. A reality that conspires tirelessly in my favor.”

“I further recognize, that living within space and time, as a Creation
amongst my Creations, is the ultimate Adventure, because thoughts
become things, dreams come true, and all things remain forever
“As a Being of Light, I hereby resolve to live, love and be happy, at
all costs, no matter what, with reverence and kindness for All. So mote it be!””



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Learning to sew – things to learn

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:50 pm

Today I am posting learning to sew tips from people who know it. Who have been there and done that.

From Dressaday.com:

  • Cutting is five times as important as construction. Honestly. Once you’ve cut the pattern, your track is chosen. It’s much harder to recover from a cutting error than a sewing error. If you take your time on the cutting out, you will never regret it. Don’t cut out patterns when you’re tired, angry, or distracted (or, needless to say, drunk); you’ll never wear the dress. And all those markings on the patterns? MARK THEM ALL. You won’t be able to ‘figure it out later’ — believe me, I KNOW.
  • Have everything in place before you start sewing. And by everything, I mean, wind one more bobbin than you think you’ll need, know where your seam ripper, measuring tape, pins, zipper foot for your machine, etc., are. If the project needs seam binding or buttons or a zipper or interfacing: have it before you start. The fabric store is a sad, sad place at ten p.m. (if it’s even open). And once you get home with whatever it was you needed, sitting down with a book will look awfully inviting. (Of course, being by nature impatient and NOT having what you need can lead to some “interesting” design decisions … not that I would know. Ha.)
  • Put your stuff away in the right place when you’re done. That way you won’t have to spend an hour cleaning up from your LAST project before you can start your NEXT project. Total buzzkill, that is.
  • Eliminate the “shouldas” from your sewing life. Has a project descended into that abyss from which it shall never emerge? Write. It. Off. Don’t let it hang around your sewing room like some Dickensian ghost. Give it away, cut it into quilt squares, mash it up for papermaking, hold an unfinished-object-swap with all your sewing friends, heck, throw it out or burn it if you have to — I don’t care what you do with it, but once you get to the point where thinking of it makes you feel guilty and self-flagellating, it is not a “unfinished project” but a curséd albatross. Sewing is no longer something people need to do to survive on the frontier [if you ARE on the frontier, pls ignore this part]; it’s a FUN HOBBY. Vigorously expunge the parts that aren’t fun. So you screwed up. So what? Bury the evidence, deny, deny, deny, and move ON.


As well as:


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Why sew alone?

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 1:44 pm

One of the things about sewing is that it can be a hobby filled with “alone time”. While I enjoy “alone time” probably more than the average person, sometimes it gets a bit much. Here are some strategies I use to be more social:

1. organize a craft night with friends. Remember to have safety glasses around for new sewing machine users and no wine before using machines or irons. Other than that – go nuts. This has worked and will continue to work I hope!

2. Take a sewing class – stretch your skills, make some friends. This has worked for me in the past, although I find that maintainign a friendship over one thing can be ahrd, especially if you have wildly different priorities and values than the other sewers in the class. However, I am hopeful with my current class! And I love my teacher He is the smartest coolest, anal retentive sewer I know. Although Ron Collins still have given the best dart sewing tips ever: threading your machine backwards to prevent puckering on dart tips – genius.

3. Join a community sewing group. This has not worked out for me as it has, in my experience, turned into an experience where people can come and get their tailoring done for free. Although I admit I’m part of the problem as I hate to see people with sloppy or “homemade” looking effects and try to have people do things the “right way” or teach people how to do things so they won’t fall apart the first time they are washed. This often takes more time than people are willing to spend.

4. If you’re feeling alone, visit this link. http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/what_to_do_with_scrap_pt2.html and see how many people are doing great things with fabric scraps.

5. Listen to a “mp3 book” or “book on tape”, or “NPR” (specifically Cartalk or NY Radio Lab). This is awesome. Using headphones is sometimes required to combat sewing machine noise. Although my computerized machine is deceptively quiet – it’s almost creepy.

6. Actually finish your projects and wear them, so that when/if you receive compliments you can talk to someone about sewing. But always remember, people may not want as much information as you’d like to share. Moderation in all things!

Any other tips?

January 2008

August 26, 2008


Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 3:24 pm

Okay, I admit it, I was once part of this cult of personality around Linus. After reading his biography though (I even bought it!), I was throughly annoyed, he just comes across as having all the bad sys. admin. characteristics and questionable leadership skills. Although I will have to re-read his bio. in light of my new textbooks discussion of “small l” leadership. Perhaps I was too biased in my reading. 

You know the “bad sys admin characteristics”, the things that group skateboarders and sys admins. in the same category of un-dateable male, (or ultra-dateable, depending on your POV). They involve a secular form of “academic boy disease”.  However this article is hleping me give up my tech. guy stereotypes.  It was nice to read that Linux developers are having real-world ends in mind i.e. saving power. What the article does not mention however is that Linux is designed to run with less “bloat” and therefore allows you to use older, less powerful, etc. hardware and prevents old computers from going to ”the dump”.  So they are moving the philosophical idea into real power management features infrastructure.

Here’s the article:

Torvalds: Linux ready to go green

By Munir Kotadia

Story last modified Thu Jan 31 07:01:39 PST 2008

The infrastructure and tools required to make Linux a green operating system are now in place, according to Linux leader Linus Torvalds, who was in Melbourne this week attending Australia’s largest Linux conference.

In an interview at the linux.conf.au conference, the developer of the Linux kernel admitted that the operating system was lagging behind on power-management and energy-diagnosis tools.

“It is an area we were pretty weak in a few years ago and just building up the infrastructure took a long time, but now we are at a point where we have most of it done,” Torvalds said.

“That doesn’t mean we are done. Now we have an infrastructure in place… we have the tools to measure power and notice when the power is higher and why that is, which is pretty important. Before, it used to be a black box,” he said.

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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Salon article on reducing power consumption.

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 4:41 pm



Put a stake in it

Cut up to 10 percent of your electric bill simply by turning off “vampire” appliances that run all night.

By Rebecca Clarren

Jan. 24, 2008 | There are insomniacs in our homes that work late at night and run up the electricity bill. They are not the classically overworked American who pops melatonin or Tylenol PM. They are microwave ovens, computers and TVs. They are half of our appliances, electronic equipment and associated chargers that suck down power even when they’re turned off, in sleep or standby mode. A typical house hosts around 50 such insomniacs, and though individual devices use minuscule amounts of electricity, in the aggregate they’re an astonishing and pricey burden.

This “vampire energy loss” represents between 5 and 8 percent of a single family home’s total electricity use per year, according to the Department of Energy. On average, that’s the equivalent of one month’s electricity bill. Taken across the United States, this adds up to at least 68 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually; that’s the equivalent output of 37 typical electricity-generating power plants, costing consumers more than $7 billion. This wasted energy sends more than 97 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; on a global scale, standby energy accounts for 1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, according to Alan Meier of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, based in California.

“When a consumer thinks the device is off, it should be using as little power as possible,” says Meier. “But in their haste to get products onto the market, manufacturers don’t make those modest design improvements, and we, the consumers, pay the price in unnecessarily high standby power use.”

Luckily, there are a number of new gadgets that make it easy to thwart vampire energy loads. For places with clusters of cords like a home office or entertainment center, use a Smart Strip. By monitoring power consumption, the strip detects when computers or stereos are off and powers down, eliminating energy usage in all peripheral devices such as printers. Another option is the Isolé power strip, which uses a motion sensor to turn off six of its eight outlets if it hasn’t detected anyone in the room for up to 30 minutes.

To ascertain what appliances are sucking the most power, you can buy a Kill a Watt power meter, a nifty gadget with a wall outlet that measures the watts, volts, amps and kilowatt-hours of a given device when off or on. I bought one and spent a fun-filled few days discovering the power my appliances were wasting. While my electric toothbrush and cellphone charger suck less than a kWh per day (around $5 a year), my VCR, which I seldom use, takes three times that much. I don’t have a plasma TV, but if you do, it’s likely using over 1,400 kWh per year (the equivalent of about $160) if plugged in but not technically “on,” according to a 2005 Department of Energy report. A Federal Energy Management Program Web site supplies information about the standby power wattage of office equipment such as computers, fax machines and printers.

To measure whole-house electricity consumption, try a monitor called Energy Detective. It costs around $190 and provides cost estimates of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Like a scale, it doesn’t help you lose weight or cut back on power. But by providing immediate feedback of how much money you are spending each day on energy, and how much you are likely to spend next month, it’s a solid motivator to unplug appliances and turn off lights. Consumers who used such monitors cut back their energy use by around 5 percent, according to a July 2007 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Currently, there are no simple devices to thwart the biggest users of phantom energy in our homes — the appliances that we unknowingly never turn off. The biggest such offenders are TV set-top boxes with a digital video recorder such as TiVo. Made without a standby mode, most models remain on even when you’re not watching or recording a show, consuming up to 400 kWh per year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s enough energy to emit 0.05 tons of carbon dioxide per year (roughly the total emissions of an average citizen of Burundi), reported the New Scientist in November. While energy-efficiency advocates have been trying to get cable and satellite companies to reduce the energy use of these boxes, they’ve had limited success so far.

“A family with several such cable boxes may use more energy per year than to power their new refrigerator,” says Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist with NRDC, based in San Francisco. “The cable or satellite company provides the box, but they don’t pay the electric bill, you do. People should be calling their service provider in anger, saying there’s no reason these things need to be at full power all the time.”

Computer-game consoles are also often left on. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3, for example, use only less than 1 watt of power when turned off, but when left on (in order to not quit an unfinished game before dinner or bedtime, for example), they use roughly 150 watts. Although the Xbox 360 does have an automatic power-down feature, it arrives disabled. Users need to dig into the menu to enable the “auto off” feature.

Finally, an easy fix for saving additional power from your TVs and computers is to reduce the brightness of your screen by half, and watch power consumption of the entire machine drop by about 30 percent. And by using computer screen savers, you’re wasting as much as $100 per year. These constant displays don’t save energy or prevent the display disfigurement for which they were created 15 years ago; new technology fixed that problem long ago.

A major solution to vampire energy, say experts like Meier, will arrive when manufacturers design more efficient appliances. Even so, by using power strips and maintaining vigilance about unplugging the TV and devices that get little use, we can help those insomniacs get some rest.

– By Rebecca Clarren

1 comment


Interesting Link

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:57 pm

In my morning read of my RSS feeds (both work and fun all mixed together), Coilhouse posted this link to self-portraits.


I am shamelessly linking to it as I couldn’t have said it better myself:


Note: some portraits are NSFW.

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2007 recap

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 7:35 pm

A couple of my friends did this little questionnaire and I enjoyed reading their takes on life and the year, so I think I could repay their stories with my own.

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?
– got married.
– committed to a logo for my designs/sewing.
– travelled for work (not just grad school)

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
– Yes, I am now a trained, regular labyrinth volunteer
– I will only make good resolutions in 2008.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?  no

4. Did anyone close to you die?  no, but my older relatives are passing on. It’s odd to be loosing my history.

5. What countries did you visit?
– Republic of Ontario.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
– freedom. stability. organized.

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
7/7/07 – got married.
28/7/07 – realized the implications of marriage fully.


8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
– coped with a terrible work situation with grace and then rising to the occassion of a new job.

9. What was your biggest failure?
– Letting things get to me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? no.

11. What was the best thing someone bought you?
– I was rented table clothes and bought fancy paper.


12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
– My friends and all their support.
– My cat decided to get alone with her new roommate cats.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
-They know who they are. Generally I learned that everyone is about their own turf.

14. Where did most of your money go?
– wedding.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
– fabric shopping in LA and the Getty Museum.


16. What song will always remind you of 2007?

Rehab by Amy Whinehouse

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

b) thinner or fatter?

c) richer or poorer?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

swimming. walking on the beach.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

trying to make others happy.

20. How do you plan to spend Christmas?  at home.

21. Did you fall in love in 2007?  no.


22. How many one night stands?

zero. except for that one night with a pot of Kraft Dinner & a pledge of undying love.


23. What was your favorite TV program?

Hell’s Kitchen.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? no.

25. What was the best book you read?

Best Fanfic was: Willow Immortal/Spike post-sunnydale destruction.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Ok Go.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

27. What did you want and get?
– a stable loving awesome guy

28. What did you want and not get?
– career happiness

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30. I had a birthday party at home filled with old and new friends.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If I would have lowered my expectations and done more yoga.

If I would have followed through more dilligently with consulting work.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?

lots more brown. Discovering crocs. less sparkles.

33. What kept you sane?

wine, yoga.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Loss of birth control funding for college students in the US.

Cambie St. debacle.


36. Who do you miss?

My grandpa.

The world is a sadder place with the loss of James Barber.


37. Who was the best new person you met?

Michele and Matt


38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007?

How to deal with narcissism.

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Subject: Can you answer all of these?

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 7:11 pm

Four jobs I have had in my life:  
Research and Grants Facilitator
Research Associate
Client Services Coordinator
Naturalist Assistant
A/V Crew Chief

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:
Princess Bride
The Day the Earth Stood Still
La Femme Nikita

Four Places I have lived:  
 Waterloo, Ontario
outside Wellesley, Ontario
outside Thunder Bay, Ontario
Vancouver, BC

Four T.V. Shows that I (used to) watch:
Crossing Jordan
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Twin Peaks
In Living Colour 

Four places I have been:
Stralsund, Germany
Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
Los Angeles, USA
Kananaskis, Alberta

Four favorite foods:
fruit tarts (chinese style)
fruit triffle
spinach salad
Dill pickles

Four places I would like to visit:
– Ukraine (for family reasons)
– San francisco and LA again.
– Tahsis, BC

Four things I am looking forward to in the coming year:
– Birth of Nicola and Anna’s babies.  
– possibly finishing a management certification
– celebrating my 1 year wedding anniversary

Best book I’ve read this year:

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A Funny Thing at the Fabric Store

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 6:31 pm

Yesterday I made a trip to a sewing store. Not my usual comfy haunt, but a chain store that sells more patterns and is located near knight and Marine Drive. I don’t think I should name it.

So going by bus from work, this took 1.5 hours. This is normal, as I didn’t take the #49, but the 99 to 22. The 99 was there and it was a 20 min. wait for the #49. Anyway, here’s what I wanted to buy:


  • 1 pattern (camisole with bust seam, made for stretch fabrics)
  • black stretch lace/mesh/whatever with 1 scalloped edge
  • thimble
  • a twin needle designed for stretch knits
  • black 100% poly thread
  • and open presser foot
  • lingerie elastic
  • strap findings
  • #10 ball point needle

I didn’t think that finding these things would be an issue, as this store is a chain found everywhere. Here are my results:

·  1 pattern (camisole with bust seam, made for stretch fabrics) (nope, nothing between 4 pattern companies – there are no stretch patterns for camisoles, its all formless rectangle patterns and narry a boxer pattern in sight!)

·  black stretch lace/mesh/whatever with 1 scalloped edge (nothing)

·  thimble (nothing metal, all plastic)

·  a twin needle designed for stretch knits (no)

·  black 100% poly thread (yes, but not gutterman brand)

·  curved needle (Yes, for $2.49)

·  open machine presser foot  (no)

·  lingerie elastic (no, all thick not for show elastic in white)

·  strap findings (no)

·  #10 ball point needle (yes!)

Frustering!! I’m trying the non-chain store tonight.

Perhaps sewing store customers are all quilter or home decor and not stretch black lace sewers?

But the nice part was that a very nice bus driver let us stay in his nice warm bus drivers room while waiting out the windstorm, as the bus was running 20 minutes late.

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Things of a sewing nature

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 1:06 pm

Do not use my sewing scissors for paper. I mean it. I know my Mom is now saying “I told you so”, but geesh.


Here’s a cute video outlining why: http://finalembrace.com/2008/01/07/sewing-scissors-are-not-for-cutting-paper/


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This blog is the first I’ve posted in a while

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 2:27 am

My last blog I hosted at home while learning to use apache and I was beginning my thesis.

It was also written under one of two alias’ developed back in 1995.

I wonder then how this blog will be different. i suspect that this blog will host more information or interesting tidbits, similar to the notes I post in Facebook.

Here are some articles:


When I was originally developing my first blog, all my friends were blogging and it was a way of discussing events and sharing them with people who weren’t there, but I think that Facebook takes the place of this, as you can organize events and share pictures, etc. after it.
Although I would argue that a “status line” and “twitter” can not take the place of blogging one’s life, as blogging is a way of archiving ideas and thoughts, rather than up-to-the-minute updating events. A blog can tell people the person you were, or at least your interests months or even years ago

And facebook and a blog won’t replace my RSS reader, although I do get the blogs I read regularly amassed into a listing of RSS feeds into my reader: www.bloglines.com,

anyway, enough meta and onto blogging


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August 1, 2008

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