Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty –

Good article in the New York Times about the relationship between agriculture/cattle and water resources. Yet another good reason to give up eating slaughtered animals!

It’s seductive to think that we can continue along our carnivorous route, even in this era of climate instability. The environmental impact of cattle in California, however, reminds us how mistaken this idea is coming to seem.


via Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty –

RIP Dave Brubeck

  • In junior high band, we played Linus and Lucy.
  • My high school band teacher was a jazz clarinetist, and he liked Dave Brubeck.
  • As a teenager I bought the CD of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.
  • My friends (from ADK Loj) and I bought tickets to see him play at St. Bernard’s Church in Saranac Lake in 1989. We were so excited. It turned out that most of the program was some high school choral group, and the appearance was a favor. Dave Brubeck accompanied the student singers to some of the worst warbling of church music ever before he played some of his own stuff. Still.
  • Jazzfest at SPAC.



Socially Responsible Business and Better World Books

A lot of people who know me through WordPress don’t realize that I used to be a hippie activist who worked for non-profits and wanted to save the world. Socially responsible business is something I care a lot of about, stemming from when I took my first web job (and first real non-non-profit job) in 1998, which was at a socially responsible business that sold renewable energy. Using business to be an agent for good and for change, while a bit anathema to that younger hippie self who thought capitalism was gross, is one of the most important things to encourage if we want to see real change; non-profits can only do so much (says the girl who worked for a bunch of them). Anyway, older and less likely to see things in black and white, I was really psyched to see this announcement about a new Maryland law for socially responsible business on the Better World Books blog.

Previously, there had not been a legal framework specifically designed for social enterprise – you either had to be a for-profit company, legally beholden to maximizing shareholder value, or a non-profit organization. Now there is a legal framework for companies that do well by doing good and who strive to generate both social and shareholder returns.

via Maryland Passes Benefit Corporation Legislation | Better World Books.

I hope that other states and ultimately the federal government will enact legislation that recognizes this business segment and provides incentives for businesses to be socially responsible. All my bleeding-heartism aside, if businesses start pumping more money into charities and social efforts, that’s less that the government might spend.

If you haven’t heard of Better World Books, allow me to introduce you. I love them. Love them love them love them. Sadly, I am often more inclined to use Amazon just because of prime shipping, electronics, etc., but this past week when I needed to get two books for a class, I headed over to BWB to nab them. It’s an online new and used books store. It works similar to Powell’s (which I also love, but for different reasons), where you can send them books to buy from you etc, but Better World Books, operating as a socially-oriented business, funnels money toward literacy efforts around the world. They’ve raised over 8 million bucks so far.

Those used books stay out of landfills. The shipping materials are minimal, with vacuum packing rather than packing materials. Their site offers book reviews, interview podcasts, information on starting your own book drive, book club materials and more. They have a special program for library discards (seeing a library discard the books they couldn’t get rid of in a sidewalk sale is gut-wrenching to me), where they sell the books and then share the profits with both the usual literacy programs and the library itself.

Honestly, if you are a book-buyer, I couldn’t recommend any online retailer more. Plus, their blog is on WordPress. 🙂

Truth in Advertising?

Even Jessica Alba, named sexiest woman in the world more than once, isn't immune to retouching.

Even Jessica Alba, named sexiest woman in the world more than once, isn't immune to retouching.

I, like many women, find the airbrushing of the female form in popular media to be, well, basically an evil plot by the patriarchal multinational media conglomerates to subjugate women into a reduced psychosocial status that requires them to buy into meaningless consumer-driven lifestyles of diet products, spanx, makeup and anti-cellulite creams in an attempt to match the media portrayals of women’s bodies, which are rarely realistic.

(Cough, sorry, flashback to my younger, more strident years.)

Still, it’s actually true. And it pisses me off even more when the original photo shows a genuinely well-proportioned (or even skinny) woman (see above). So I was blown away when I saw that a law is being proposed in France to require labeling of retouched body images.

The required warning would be needed in newspaper and magazine advertising, press photos, product packaging, political campaigns and art photography, according to the Telegraph. The language will reportedly be: “Retouched photograph aimed at changing a person’s physical appearance.”

via Photoshopping Illegal? France Set to Regulate Airbrushed Pics.

It seems unlikely to pass in France, and unlikely to ever be brought up in the U.S., but I think this would be great. In the same vein I also would like to see similar disclaimers on teen movies and TV shows: “The actors portraying 15-year-olds are in fact 28 years of age. You should not look, act, or dress like this is you are really 15;” and historical films/fiction: “Things didn’t really happen this way, but we don’t really care if you know the difference between fact and fiction, because if we say it’s based on true events, we get more cash.”

National health care, now this? If only I’d stayed in French class in college. Sadly, I didn’t get much past, “je suis un barreur.” (Ironically, I dropped the class because it conflicted with crew practice.)

NYC, Tenements and the Environment

My apartment in the east village is in a tenement building. It’s on the top floor (5th, walkup), and I’ve been an environmentalist since my teens, so I’ve often felt intense guilt about my place. The way the radiators work, heating the empty hallways to broiling but leaving lower floor apartments in the cold due to their old windows and the construction that lets all the heat rise to the 5th floor, means my apartment is generally in the high 70s in the winter, even with both of my radiators turned all the way off.

In contrast, for hot water to make it all the way up to me, the water has to run for a few minutes. Not a few seconds, like Adama testing the shower’s temperature during A Disquiet Follows My Soul (one of the best images of the whole series IMO in terms of making him seem like a regular person), but solidly running water for anywhere from 2-15 minutes. To get around the water guilt in this situation, I suggest taking showers at the gym, and saving the water at home for baths.

Every time I ran cold water for a shower, turned on a fan in December, or started sweating when I walked into the building hallway, I wished New York City would pass legislation that would encourage property owners to upgrade their heating and hot water systems, including things like insulation, windows, etc. I was hazy on how this could be accomplished, in our private-property-is-an-inalienable-right kind of society, but visions of tax breaks and subsidies danced in my head like a child’s Christmas sugarplum dreams. (I had no need to dream of sugarplums, since Veniero’s is right on the corner.)

I was pleased, then, to read that New York is finally maybe hopefully almost going to start taking this seriously.

“Elected leaders in New York City will propose a suite of laws and other initiatives on Wednesday aimed at reducing energy consumption and related emissions of greenhouse gases by requiring owners of thousands of older buildings to upgrade everything from boilers to light bulbs.”

While this particular attempt may not make it, it’s a step toward the city taking more responsibility for its environmental impact, which I appreciate. Read the full article here: City Plans to Make Older Buildings Refit to Save Energy –

*This post created with Press This.

Official Google Blog: Bringing history online, one newspaper at a time

This is awesome. Last year when I went back to school and took some advanced history classes, I found the process of accessing historical newspapers to be painful in the extreme. Holding libraries have to be careful of old newsprint, so if the paper is in a California library and you’e in NY, it used to mean having to go to California to see the article. Also, chances are you won’t be allowed to photograph, photocopy or scan such papers due to their fragility. Microfilm is available in more places, and the NYPL had a good collection, but microfilm is such a pain in the ass… nothing is indexed, and if you are looking for something specific, you find yourself wishing Google managed the microfilm so you could type in a few keywords and go straight to the relevant rolls of film. This is even better.

Having a text based index will make the search for contemporary news content sooo much nicer. I do wonder if Google will create a text index for images and advertisements as well… they make it clear that newspapers will be displayed as they were originally printed with these elements, but as someone who spent 6 months looking for bathing suit advertisements in newspapers from the 1920s, and political cartoons about the Oneida Community in the 1800s, I can attest to how impossible it is to track these kinds of things down. A text index of such images would be invaluable to historians, and to students.

Even without an image index, this is a huge accomplishment. Thanks, Google!

Official Google Blog: Bringing history online, one newspaper at a time.