Entries from: September 2008

Black and White

Prepare to be schooled. Legitimately.

On the second Tuesday in November, history will be made. America will have elected either its first African American president, more than 140 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, or the first woman vice president, nearly 90 years following the ratification of the bill that gave U.S. women the right to vote. It’s a spectacular opening of doors for future generations in America, and a new source of untapped talent for the highest offices in the land. Regardless of the scurrilous gossip strewn about the candidates personal lives, about the disagreements over flip flopping and petty fighting between party lines, there are real issues here at stake that actually matter to our lives and the lives of our children. As Lauren stated, it’s exhausting to witness the bickering, and maybe this is only another voice in the crowd of many. I’ve painfully recognized how uneducated and seemingly uninterested Americans are on the actual FACTS of this election. We have let our reality become distorted by the most backwards and terrifying process of dehumanization out there, the agenda of the corporate American press.

In an attempt to be as bipartisan as possible, I thought that I would try to outline some of the basic issues of both candidates and what they stand for. This is in no way a purpose for me to be stumping for either party (even though you know I’m not afraid to let you know who I support), this is simply an attempt to break down the basic facts. Just because you’ve always voted Democrat, or you’ve always voted Republican, does not mean that you should blindly support whomever that party has nominated. Do you agree with their stance on foreign policy? Their answer to the war in Iraq? Their energy policies? What about education? When it comes down to it, this is a personal decision, but one that should be an informed choice. We can’t base our sources of knowledge in hearsay, propaganda or in the opinions of spouses or parents or friends. I’ve done the gruntwork for you, and here it is. Make your own choices.

In black and white, I give you the facts:

  • Taxes

In comparison to the policies in place under our current administration, the McCain tax plan will reduce taxes by approximately 4.2 trillion. The Obama plan will cut taxes by 2.9 trillion. McCain’s tax cuts will hit across the board, with the biggest cuts going to the highest income households (top 1% of US citizens making over $1.2 mill/year), while Obama would give larger tax cuts to low and moderate income households and pay most of the cost by raising taxes on high income taxpayers (top 1% making over $1.2 mill/year). Both policies from both parties will substantially increase our national debt over the next ten years: McCain’s would increase our debt by $5 trillion, Obama’s by $3.5 trillion.

What does this mean for you? The typical American, middle class income (incomes of less than $200k yearly for individuals and $250k per year for married couples) will raise 3% with McCain’s plan. In comparison, with Obama’s plan, middle income households will see a boost of 5% back into their wallets.

Things to consider: National debt. Want to see how much we owe? Check this out. We need to pay taxes in order to dig ourselves out of debt and get this tattered economy back on it’s feet. Bigger tax breaks and higher spending pushes this debt onto our children and our children’s children.

(Please note, these are estimations based on currently proposed tax plans. Source: Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

  • Health Care

McCain proposes a refundable income tax credit of $2500 individually or $5000 for married couples purchasing health insurance. He believes that competition between insurance companies will lower the cost and improve the quality of health insurance. This, among other changes that McCain proposes, would cost the US deficit $1.3 trillion over ten years. Obama’s plan is to modernize the US healthcare system and make relatively low cost insurance available to everyone, along with subsidizing premiums for low and moderate income folks. This will cost the US deficit $1.6 trillion, but would also cover virtually all children and the majority of currently uninsured adults. McCain’s proposed plan would cut the number of uninsured people by a little over 6 million in ten years. Obama’s plan would bring the numbers of uninsured people down by 34 million.

(Source: Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

Things to consider: One in seven Americans are uninsured, living sicker and dying younger. Uninsured Americans effect everyone’s health coverage. Even the insured pay the price with crowded emergency rooms and escalating health care costs, which in turn make health insurance less affordable. The United States spends nearly $100 billion annually to provide uninsured patients with health services, often for preventable diseases or diseases more effectively treated with an earlier diagnoses. Can you guess where this money comes from, loyal tax payer?

  • Iraq

The basic discrepancy between candidates on this issue is whether or not to pull out from the war and withdraw our troups. McCain says fight it out, Obama says end it. McCain believes that it is our moral obligation to stay in Iraq until it is capable of governing itself and safeguarding its own people. He supports counterinsurgencies (sending additional troops) in order to control the population and violence in Iraq. McCain will promote efforts within the international community to support regional stability and to bolster Iraq’s economy. He also supports structuring the US’s military posture in order to put pressure on Iraq’s neighbors (Syria and Iran) to stop aiding Shi’ite militias.

Obama believes that we are in the midst of a war without end, and proposes a plan to finish it. He believes that our military resources are dwindling and leaving us less safe at home, and that with a responsible and phased withdrawal, both Iraq and the US will be better off. Obama’s basic plan will have brigades removed at a pace of 1 to 2 per month, to be completed in 16 months. He will also have a residual force remain in Iraq to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions as well as continue efforts to train and support Iraqi security forces with the support of the Iraqi government. Obama believes in a moral obligation to Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, providing $2 billion to support the millions of displaced Iraqi families while reserving the right to intervene militarily, with international support, to suppress potential genocidal violence within the country.

McCain highlights that the past year has shown a significant reduction in violence in Iraq, and he places the success on the shoulders of the troop surge. Obama supports redirecting our efforts towards Afghanistan where Taliban has since reemerged, pointing out that 2007 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2001.

Things to consider: With hundreds upon thousands of innocent lives lost, almost 5,000 American soldiers dead since the start of the war, and $3 trillion in national debt… the cost of the war continues to rise by the second.

  • Environment/Energy Crisis

It seems as though major authorities on the environment and energy crisis don’t think that either candidate has enough policy in regard to these topics. It also seems that both candidates bleed into one another’s solutions, there is a meshing between sides. The major differences are that McCain is touting increased fossil fuel production and nuclear energy, while Obama emphasizes alternative sources and conservation to meet our energy needs.

McCain’s emphasis on increased production of nuclear energy and oil is based in a re-commitment in these energy sources. Nuclear energy produces zero emissions, and could decrease our dependency on foreign oil, however safety can be an issue due to the high levels of radioactivity that can be emitted from the waste (newer plants have a much better safety record, but it makes some reminisce about Chernobyl). There are also concerns about the cost of researching and building nuclear power plants. McCain’s plan also will give $2 billion per year in order to advance clean coal technology.

McCain supports off-shore drilling, deep sea drilling off U.S. coastlines in search of oil in order to increase domestic supplies. Increasing domestic oil production could put a patch on the situation we’ve found ourselves at the gas pump, however ecologically speaking, oil is a non-renewable resource and not a great thing to be dependent on, not to mention the threat of what oil spills can do to our environment. McCain has the idea of providing a $300 million award for “the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.” Anyone know how to make batteries?

Obama will back limited off-shore drilling, as he believes that oil companies should first drill on the 68 million acres that they have which are so far unused. Previously against the idea, Obama has recently said that he now believes a compromise will have to be made in order to prevent gridlocking between oil companies and the government. His main objective is that we need to reduce our dependency on oil completely and move towards new fuel choices and alternative energies. Obama’s proposed policies take it a step further by investing $150 billion over ten years in order to build a clean energy future, along with creating 5 million “green collar” jobs. As for an immediate solution, he’ll give a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay for rising bills, the money coming from oil company profits. Obama would mandate the auto industry in order to influence them towards making vehicles capable of running on alternative fuels, and increase federal support of mass transit. McCain is against these mandates, and once a cap and trade is implemented (keep reading…), would rely on the market to cultivate alternative energy itself.

Both candidates support tax credits to those that buy hybrid cars. Both support a cap-and-trade system that would place a cost on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming, in order to encourage a shift towards renewable energy. Both also agree that regardless of the solution to stop the immediate oil bleeding from the gas pumps in America, something needs to be done to catalyze our shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

Please see this as well as this for further info.

Things to consider: Where you’ll be in 2050 when the Arctic Ocean has completely melted, the glaciers are gone from the Alps, and over one million species of animals are extinct. I’ll be (hopefully) still kicking it at 68.

  • Education

The low standards that our education system has currently in place are dismal at best. American children rank 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics and 19th out of 40 countries in science. Education should be a top priority. Bush’s No Child Left Behind plan was a complete dud, most agree the reason for this is because it was neglected in funding. We have huge issues in America with teacher quality and accountability. (Although this article is Obama based, if you are interested in the current state of our national education system, it is phenomenally written, please devour.) McCain will work to improve the No Child Left Behind Law, Obama will fundamentally extricate it.

McCain doesn’t seem to have a clear plan in regard to changing our education system, although lets hope he focuses more on this issue with the addition of his running mate and mother of 5. He does believe that public schools need to be publicly accountable for test results. McCain supports the basis of using competition in order to obtain greater quality teachers, and thinks that if parents are unhappy with the public education of their children, they should be allowed to change schools. He’ll also reward teachers with individual merit pay. Obama‘s main concerns are in the US’s high school dropout rate (30%), quality of teachers, and extremely high college costs. He will work to create a voluntary national performance assessment for new teachers, as well as work with school districts to create a program for salary increases for accomplished educators that work to mentor new teachers. Obama will also enact an unprecedented American Opportunity Tax Credit of $4000 to families universally. He will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.

Things to consider: Children are our future!

The basis of this article has grown out of Project votesmart. I believe that being informed is so important, and I am up for anyone willing to question. If we are open to it, we can all learn something here.

Signing off before my fingers fall off, as your CNN addict/political adviser chick, I bid you adieu…. DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!!!!

You are what you eat

Think about it. You eat a French fry, it goes into your mouth (chew chew chew) and down into your stomach (plunk), works it’s way through your digestive track (refined carbs make you a little gassy?) and all of those Frenchy fried nutrients get taken out and put into your bloodstream, where it feeds all the organs, muscles and cells in your body. A French fry body!

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while, but haven’t known how to approach it. I didn’t want it to come out as a lecture or anything, like your mother telling you to eat your greens, but more of an inspirational piece. And so, hopefully this will motivate you to make better choices with your eating habits.

Every time you put food in your mouth, you have a chance to refuel yourself. Every morsel that you ingest is essentially a chance to recover your body and to improve your mind and its functions. Every time you eat junk food, you lose out on that instance to gift your body something good, something that will fuel you through the bumps along the road.

I’m talking healthy eating here, so let me be clear: this is not about dieting. It is about straight up, healthy body, get yourself on track, smart eating. If you are making the right choices for optimal health, you will whip your body and lifestyle into shape without even trying. Healthy eating will bring your body to its optimal capability, which is primarily where we should want to be and genetically how we look and feel our best. It is not healthy to want to look like a stick figure regalia of a Hilton descendant, although everyone’s body is different. Their money isn’t the only thing they have going for them, genetically the Hiltons and Richies have small frames, but we’ve all seen the tabloid pictures of them looking like walking skeletons. The point is to get to the best body for you.

For starters, check out the ADA website. The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, which includes doctors, dietitians, health instructors, etc. It is tried and true information on nutrition and diet whose foundation is research, education and advocacy. You can find articles about eating healthy on the run and figuring out which artificial sweetener is best, as well as the benefits of chewing gum. Who knew that Bubblicious could help manage weight and relieve stress?

The basics of nutrition come down to an appropriate balance of the major food groups. See here for a refresher course on the food pyramid. If you can truly make it a goal to hit all of the requirements in each food group, you are going to be so full that you won’t have any room for cheese fries (Ok I will always have room for cheese fries, but hopefully you catch my drift). If you are one of those that count McDonalds as your primary food group, start slow. Add a piece of fruit a day as a snack instead of chips, wean yourself off of M+Ms by adding 10 or 12 to a cup of yogurt instead of eating the whole bag, add veggies to your pizza. By filling yourself up with a few extra healthy choices each day, you’ll notice a reduction in cravings for high fat and sugary foods.

It’s not about being a nutrition nazi and eating tofu and spinach at every meal. While that may work for some, it isn’t realistic for most. Plus, food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. From personal experience, I know that if I deny myself something it only makes me want it more. Its ok to enjoy a little variety and moderation in your diet without killing all the excitement. You don’t need to pass up your chocolate chip cookies for carrot sticks, try having one cookie with a glass of low fat milk instead of eating the whole bag with a can of pepsi. Eight ounces of 1% milk has 8 grams of protein in it, combined with the moderate indulgence of a cookie it will leave you feeling full without the deprivation of living off of carrot sticks. Also, listening to your body is key. If you are hungry, eat something. It’s all about making the right choices.

Another great tip is to focus on eating real foods. Real foods are anything unprocessed, non-industrialized, and are fresh and seasonable. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, choose natural foods that don’t have a paragraph of ingredients on their labels, or better yet choose food that doesn’t come with a label. If you need help with this one, please step into the fruit and veggie section of your local grocery store. Hopefully this won’t be a new experience for you. Even so, you don’t need to eat all fruits and veggies to eat real foods. Real cheese (gasp! sorry Velveeta), free range chicken and eggs, whole grains, juices made of 100% juice are great choices as well.

I could go on and on about this topic. Of course, I am not a nutritionist and only speaking from experience and my own knowledge with a little help from Google. Especially for those with high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, always consult a doctor before making any dietary changes.

When you eat crap, you feel like crap, and essentially you are crap. So start working on uncrapping yourself!

What are your healthy eating tips?

All you have to do is dance to save the world

It’s 2am and the drinks are flowing, music is grooving and there’s a rhythmic flow of people bumping and grinding on the dance floor. You take a sip of your organic beer in its polycarbon cup and think its time to break the seal, and head to the rainwater fed toilets. As you make your way through the sea of bodies in the low-wattage lit club, there’s a slight movement in the floor coming from the springboards that it’s mounted on, which capture the energy produced from dancing and convert it into electricity.  

Welcome to the latest of idealistic innovations in sustainable clubbing. That’s right, eco-friendly status with the hope to be fully sustainable nightclubs. Lets get down with our bad selves! Plans to open in early July in the UK are touted with hopeful seeds being planted for similarly run bars and nightclubs in New York, Cape Town, Amsterdam and Rio. Consider for a moment about how much heat, trash (debris, not the trash wearing the eff me pumps), and pure energy is expelled out of bars and nightclubs today. We all contribute to it, going out and having fun is extremely important to the well being and happiness of many responsible adults. What if this energy could be harnessed into supplying the very business that is churning it?

Enter Dr. Earth. An entrepreneur whose alias I am still attempting to uncover, Dr. Earth seems to aspire to be the Al Gore of nightclubs. Behind the concept of club4climate, he is attempting to spread the message of green nightclubbing and is even promoting an earth friendly private island destination, due to open in 2010. Perhaps a green Ibiza?  While “hedonism not destruction” is a noble concept, Dr. Earth’s attempts to donate his profits to Friends of Earth are unwanted due to the island concept’s encouragement of international air travel. Nevertheless he attempts to party on, hosting green parties across London and hoping to spread his message through the world.

The entertainment business as a whole is such a huge market, it makes you wonder just how much bars, restaurants and nightclubs are adding to our carbon footprint. Even for those that support local farming and organically grown produce, is it adequate for these establishments to be serving conscious foods without eco-friendly means of producing them? Seek and ye shall find: while researching this article I stumbled across www.dinegreen.com, the Green Restaurant Association’s website. You can find a small but solid database of restaurants that adhere to the GRA’s environmental guidelines, and they also list tips, suggestions and endorsed products for consumers and those in the restaurant biz. While it doesn’t look like there are any nightclub or bar listings for the party people and aspiring alcoholics, evidence suggests that it’s all on the up and up. We are slowly coming into eco submission, proving that just about everything and everyone can take a stab at sustainability and earth friendliness.

Three 12 Zeros

One million for you, one million for me, plant a few million trees, cure a few deadly diseases… how would you spend $3 trillion dollars? Got any better ideas than invading a country and killing thousands of American soldiers and innocent people? Check out 3trillion.org, where you can take a stab at finding alternative ways to spend Bush’s hallucinogenic gold mine. I gave everyone in the U.S. a collection of Radiohead albums and was still able to end hunger and poverty related diseases.

The projected cost of the Iraq war was somewhere around $50 billion when Bush and Rumsfeld first started out on their crusade in 2003. Numerous golf outings and five years later we now have a projected $3 trillion price tag (Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stigliz). It’s unfortunate to assume that the Iraq war is a justified reason for the recession that we’ve found ourselves hurling toward.

Our grand GOPs in congress even enacted tax cuts back then, defying historical logic that in times of war taxes were raised to keep our economy afloat. Of course, we’re all getting beat up anyway, with conservative estimated costs of the war at about $100 a month per American household. Dear George W, Thanks for the $600 economic stimulus, which is adding to our national debt and will be back to bite us in the ass soon enough. Ouch, lucky us. We’ve also had a Democratically-led Congress for the past few years that has sat in the shadows and done little to reverse these actions; waiting and hoping and praying for the day that their golden child will arrive and make everything all better. It comes down to $435 million per day, $18 million an hour, $300,000 a minute, $5,000 per second… While Halliburton and other such companies have been sitting pretty and rich with our national debt’s blood on their hands.

Here is how the $3 trillion cost estimate of the Iraq war is to be divided in the eyes of our government:

  • $526 billion: borrowed money (from other countries as well as gov’t selling of bonds, treasury bills, etc. at around 4% interest that we’ll end up paying for in 30 years)
  • $615 billion: total interest costs for taxpayers (yeah, you)
  • $280 billion: rebuilding of the military
  • $590 billion: disability benefits and health care for Iraq veterans
  • $1.5 trillion: estimated cost to continue Bush’s war plan through to 2017

It is important for us to realize where this money is going. The U.S.’s faltering economy could be our Achilles heal in many respects; a weak economy makes us less prepared to handle any threat to security or internal crisis. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has recently stated that about half of the California National Guard’s equipment is in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Aside from breaking down our internal readiness, this war will cost us more money than any other war in history except for World War II. A recent Senate committee report shows that the cost of servicing the Iraq war debt will exceed federal spending on both education and health research next year. The impact that this will have on us and our children is astronomical. When did the vitality of Iraq become more important then the vitality our own country?

Do you think you have a better plan of how to spend $3,000,000,000,000? Visit 3trillion.org, and when you’re done, give George W. a call and tell him all about it: 202-456-1111.

Hold Up Bitch

Holy Brangelina Tom Kat couch jumpers! Barak Obama, candidate for president of the United States called someone “sweetie” at a news conference! I’m switching my vote, call off the campaign, that guy has pulled the last cube from the base of the Jenga tower. Um… really?

Yes, our candidate called a news reporter “sweetie” in an exchange last week during a news conference. Bad on him for being ever so lackadaisical with our oblique language, to lose his footing amidst casual conversation with a news reporter of all people. Sweetie: obviously a term that some may consider sexually degrading, we can all recognize the political quandary that has occurred. When you have opponents that resort to picking at the lack of flag pinning on your lapel rather than their (dare I say insignificant) qualms over your policies on healthcare reform and the like, you have to watch every word that you live and breathe. Isn’t it sad that a word like this receives more publicity than foreign policy? Come on people, what bullshit. Adrienne touched on the sort of extreme PC-ed-ness that we’re talking about here in her article below. It’s an abuse of the disproportionate standards that we hold so high above our own heads.

Furthermore, media attention to such things is exhausting and stirs up an issue that doesn’t need consideration. Pointing the finger at an irrelevant remark merely highlights a matter of sexism that needs no additional setback. Why must we deviate? Aren’t we bigger than this? Aren’t we stronger than this as women? Come November, a democratic candidate will be facing a man who recently voted against the equal pay act, although much of us seem to have missed that one.

However back to the scene of the crime. When the fated female reporter felt slighted and ignored, she linked her disappointment in Barak’s actions to the word “sweetie”, whether consciously or not. The catalyst of treachery was the reporter’s feeling of unimportance. And here I thought that the intended purpose behind the name sweetie was that of endearment. It’s not like Barack said, “Hold up bitch”, as if he were hip to generic rappers and plastic heiresses nowadays.

This is coming from a black male that has faced a good deal of prejudice and inequality, one who has demonstrated countless times his own diligent nonpartisan beliefs. It’s another step back for some media outlets to be chastising him for such insignificance. What is with this force, this outpouring of news coverage that focuses on nothing important and everything trivial? There is a small and gradual change that is peaking over the horizon, and we are slowly creeping towards waking up, if only we can keep the momentum…

Barack can call me sweetie any day, hell I wish he would. Gas station attendants, Wawa cashiers and the passing stranger have called me worse, and I still hold as high a level of esteem for them after our sexually indiscriminate exchange as I did prior.

Melody

A few days ago while at work and listening to my trusty y-rock internet radio, I heard a song by a woman named Melody Gardot. Later in the evening I was driving home and heard the same song again on the radio. It sort of reminded me of Fiona Apple, and she’s always fun, so I decided to look up this Melody Gardot chick on iTunes. Her music is a bit jazzy and bluesy and her voice gets a little edgy, the album was only $5.99 so I bought it. Of course the single (Worrisome Heart) is now free this week, however it’s always good to support up and coming artists.

I’ve been listening to the album off for a couple of weeks, it has great lyrics and she has an intense voice. It sometimes gives me the feeling of that girly, Sarah McLaughlin type of music, but redeems itself with it’s acoustic and chill undertones. The album has it’s place, probably not what you’ll throw on at your next dance party, but it is quality. I liked it enough to give it to a couple of friends, so that’s saying something.

Fast forward to this evening, in the midst of doing laundry, vacuuming and popping on the computer, I pull up her myspace page. She has a nice downloadable lounge-y remix on her page, you should check it out. Melody’s also a really cute chick with blond hair, dark glasses and a smirk. I scroll down the page to find a picture of her in shadows and see the words, Thoughts on Disability. Reading on, I realize she has a cane in the picture, and in following pictures she’s wearing those dark glasses all the time and has earphones. Turns out that at the age of 19 Melody was hit by a car while riding her bike. It left her with the possibility of severe brain damage, and her doctors suggested she get involved with music to help her brain recover.

Following the local success of her first EP (Some Lessons… The Bedroom Sessions, which was recorded from her hospital bed) she’s just recently released her full-length album titled Worrisome Heart. It’s been getting a lot of hype on the international scene as well as a ton of circulation lately on rock/indie radio stations and iTunes. Seems like the girl is on her way up in this world. Being disabled isn’t an issue for her. She doesn’t use it as a crutch or a selling tool, nor as a downfall to her ability. I’m really liking the fact that we’re hearing about her music because it’s good. Hopefully you will agree.

Check Melody out at www.melodygardot.com.
Songs to hear: Worrisome Heart, Goodnight CharlesLP Remix (myspace)
Bonus points cuz she’s from Philly.

Web Fun That’s Oh So Green

Yippee yay, it’s earth day!

Earth day was created in 1970 as a global environmental awareness initiative. It is now observed in 175 countries and supported by progressive action organizations such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Earth Day Network. (Thank you Wikipedia.)

Some great, green + fun websites for earth day and beyond:

  1. Buy local foods, support local farms. Visit Local Harvest to find local farms and farmers markets. Go pet a goat and feed some ducks.
  2. Carpool. Check out eRideShare to find local peeps that are looking to share rides. You can even search for someone to carpool across the country with.
  3. Remove yourself from junk mail lists. Check out GreenDimes, sign up to be removed from junk mailings and in turn they’ll send you a dollar, plant a tree on your behalf, or send you a free green ‘zine. Everybody wins! (FYI: When you sign up for this they will ask for credit card information to verify your identity. Sort of like what paypal does. It’s been a few months since I signed up and so far no funny business.)
  4. Once you go black, you never go back… take a walk on the dark side: Blackle is Google powered and eco-friendly.
  5. Recycle your goods and get new ones at freecycle. This site will hook you up with a local group that supports the reuse of anything and everything. Although the site seems a little difficult to navigate, once you’re in there seems to be a lot of activity going on in each of the different areas. There’s a slightly loved television stand in York, PA with your name on it.
  6. Go zero! The Conservation Fund will help you measure your very own carbon emissions and tell you how many trees you need to plant to offset your consumption. I’ve got 16 trees to plant this year to outweigh my emission consumptions. I had better get started. You can do it yourself or they allow you to make a donation for whatever the cost comes out to be to plant your trees.
  7. Get free stuff (by paying for it) at the Sierra Club. Right now, $15 will get you a membership (usually around $35), and a handy backpack for a thank you gift.
  8. Be a green person/dog/baby. I bought my dog these organic treats in the shape of little cupcakes that he refuses to eat from a store I found on Green People. They also have eco friendly and holistic business listings for people too. And their travel section has some really neat stuff.
  9. Save on gas. With gas prices expected to hit $4 this summer, be sure to get your daily feul economy tips for some serious advice on saving money at the gas tank and saving the environment.
  10. Read up. Eco Chick’s blog is as sassy as it is green. And I don’t use the word *sassy* often. Starre Vartan’s website is funny, smart and earth friendly. And how could a girl named Starre not be cool? Be sure to read her list of what not to do for Earth Day. As she says, because mother earth is a woman. Yeah!

It is true, we all need to be a little greener. Without the earth we won’t be here.

April 22 also happens to be the democratic primary in PA, so get out and vote all you registered Pennsylvanians. Polls are open 7am – 8pm, your local polling place is usually within walking distance to your house. Brody and I will be on our way to our designated voting center bright and early wearing our Obama buttons. See you there.

10 Things Men Should Always Do

You may think what I’m about to write here is asking a lot, but I don’t think so. Let me preface this by saying that I’m 25 and while having had a good number of fulfilling and healthy relationships in my life, I’m currently single. However not lacking the attention of men by any means, I think that at this point in my life that it has a little more to do with quality versus quantity. Maybe I’m picky, maybe I’m fickle, but the following are just a few things that I think EVERY man should pay attention to:

  1. Have a good handshake. There’s not much worse than your first impression of a guy being that of a limp fish. There’s just not.
  2. Bring me something. I don’t need you to have a dozen roses for me every time you see me. I don’t really even like roses. But the first time we meet for a date or the first time I make you dinner at my house, bring something. It doesn’t have to be expensive, girls like little things that don’t cost a lot of money because it shows you are thinking of them.
  3. Pay for dinner. This one generally applies to first dates. I will fight you for the bill a little because I am an adult, I make my own money and I generally try to be kind and thoughtful. This does not mean, however, that if you allow me to go dutch with you that I think any better of you. Quite the contrary. Any guy that immediately gives in to my “Can I help you pay for that?” on a first date, I will think twice about.
  4. Hold the door. I’m a lady. Always hold the door for a lady. Just do it.
  5. Don’t always open the car door. It’s cute for say, the beginning of the first date. Maybe if I was pregnant (hopefully we aren’t on our first date at the time) or if my hands are full… but I would do the same for you. Other than that, I’d rather you get in, start the car and ask me if I’m hot or cold.
  6. Don’t answer your phone during dinner (and/or during any other intimate situations). This also means no texting as well. Being on your phone during dinner is just rude. It tells a woman that you aren’t interested at her, you’re more interested in looking at what time it is or whatever. Wear a watch. It’s understandable to be more easy going when you’ve been seeing someone for a while, but not during a nice dinner and especially not on a first date. And don’t try to hide it under the table either.
  7. Have condoms. No, this doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with you on our first date. Or third, or tenth. However, if you are lucky enough to get a girl into the sack, you had better be prepared.
  8. Know how to open a bottle of wine. Please see #7. Just kidding. I can go for a beer every once in a while, but I also love a glass of wine after work. Its nice to come home to a man that can open the bottle while I take my shoes off. Plus I’m a grown up. Kegs just aren’t as much of a turn on as they used to be.
  9. Be nice to my dog. You know, it says a lot about a person when they are nice to animals. My dog is very sweet and small, he isn’t going to bite you if you don’t act like an ass. Be nice to him. Especially when he is sleeping in my bed and you’re not.
  10. Keep in touch. It’s nice to hear from you every once in a while. I don’t need someone up my ass but please don’t play games with me. I don’t think you are any cooler because you wait an extra day to call me back.

Maybe it’s a wish list, a little advice to the guys out there who are wondering what they are doing wrong… or what they’re not doing. I’m as much an independent and self-reliant woman as the next, but I like men that act like men. I’m not going to stop talking to you because you don’t bring me flowers on our first date. I’m simply saying that a little chivalry will go a long way. It’s surprising how these small things make a difference, and I guarantee that you will get it back tenfold.

Got anything to add?

The Best of the Gold is at the Bottom of Barrels of Crap

Hanging out just under your stomach and snuggled next to your duodenum is your good old pancreas. The pancreas is pretty important; along with aiding digestion, it produces important hormones such as insulin that regulate blood sugar. Sadly, pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer today, and is generally predisposed to men but can and does inflict over 33,000 Americans of all races and genders each year. Remission is very rare, as cancer of the pancreas kills the majority of people within 5 years of diagnosis. Most of the time it’s sooner. I’m sure many of us have heard the sad news that our beloved Patrick Swazye has been diagnosed (alright maybe not beloved but he’s dying and I’m embellishing), and perhaps some of us have heard of Randy Pausch due to his amazing and heartfelt Last Lecture. If not, here is your chance to learn about this wonderful father, teacher and human being. Read on.

Thanks to modern technology, Randy Pausch is spreading his message to millions, and it’s been totally unintentional. With a PhD in computer science, he has spent the majority of his exceptional career exploring and expanding the realms of virtual reality. He’s one of those people that make you wonder what crazy, intense, supremely intelligent river is feeding his thoughts. A professor at Carnegie Mellon, Randy has authored/co-authored 5 books and numerous articles, loves turkey sandwiches on white bread with mayo, and has 3 adorable young children and a lovely wife. It’s an otherwise picture perfect life aside from the 10ish ugly cancerous tumors on his liver and pancreas that are currently and rapidly killing him.

In September of 2007 with a prognosis of 4-6 months left to live, Randy participated in a lecture series at Carnegie Mellon about reaching childhood dreams. His childhood dreams, consisting of playing in the NFL, meeting Captain Kirk, writing for an encyclopedia (I promise you his dorkiness is the root of his charm), reaching zero gravity and being an imagineer have successfully and for the most part been achieved. Although he never reached NFL status, Randy says that he got more out of not accomplishing this than he ever would have in reaching it. He learned the power of enthusiasm, and that experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted in the first place. Randy speaks of the importance of the head fake throughout his lecture – lessons learned indirectly. When parents enroll their kids in something such as sports, most of the time it isn’t about becoming major league, its about learning hard work and team work. Its stuff like that in which the lecture is based upon.

Randy speaks about brick walls, how they are there for a reason, brick walls let us show our dedication and they only there to stop those that don’t want it bad enough. He talks about how there is always a villain, there will always be someone in our lives that will challenge us. He talks about people in his life that have inspired him, how one such person told him that people will always surprise and impress you, even if you are pissed off and angry at someone, you just haven’t given them enough time.

Another aspect that is important about this speech is that it isn’t only telling us how to reach our own dreams, it’s also about helping others achieve their dreams. Randy is doing just that, reaching out to everyone and sharing his moving and honest path to success. Help others. Loyalty is a two way street. Pay attention. Don’t bail. Show gratitude. Don’t complain, just work harder. Find the best in everyone. Be prepared. Never give up. It isn’t necessarily about monetary success either, although that evidently seems to follow. The words of wisdom that Randy passes on are priceless, and in the end of the speech he reveals that he’s really been head-faking us all. These words aren’t really a lesson on how to reach your dreams, they’re on how to live your life. Most importantly, Randy says that if you lead your life the right way, karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you. In a world where it seems everyone is out for himself, the most motivating words are coming from a dying man to all of our ears.

And now they can be read as well. Soon after the lecture was given, it was posted on the Internet. Through the glory of sites such as youtube, over 6 million people have since accessed and watched Randy Pausch’s talk, and counting. Word spread and soon enough he had a book deal, which was cranked out skillfully in less than a year as Randy is on borrowed time. Every day it seems there is a new test, a new regimen, a new treatment that extends his life by what could be days or weeks or months. Each second is precious, the book was written in just an hour a day as to not take any time away from Randy’s children, two of which might be too young to even remember their father. Of course, as he states in his lecture, the biggest head-fake may be that Randy hasn’t done any of this for us, it’s for his children. His three young kids who will grow up without their father and perhaps without even a memory of him. It is a life guide dedicated to them that the public is now being gifted, and we should all be so fortunate to experience it.

Please click on the following links:

Watch the Last Lecture on video, buy his book (I’m sure you can find it on half.com), and be inspired. Randy Pausch’s story is truly fascinating and the lecture is great, I promise you will not be bored and you may even laugh a few times.

You can read about Randy Pauch’s daily progress on his website here. Be sure to check out the link to his personal and touching update section. Interestingly enough, its not depressing. He is optimistic and strong and he is fighting.

For more information on pancreatic cancer research and education, please visit the Lustgarten foundation here.

Race To Enlightenment

Today, in a city striped with American History and very close to my heart, a monumental speech was made by a historically influential presidential candidate. Barack Obama’s speech in Philadelphia speaks volumes to the people of America regardless of their color, political ideals or gender. It vocalizes the beliefs of a nation, addressing our weaknesses and attempts to construct a foundation based upon the unity and strength that Americans embrace today and always with great pride.

Amidst a political campaign marked with vicious battles waged on intolerance and prejudice, fighting on all fronts and against all odds, this speech articulates that we must refute the disparagement of this country and overcome the political bickering that distracts from the concerns of the United States and this world. Personally, I really don’t give a shit what color you are, nor your gender if you are making a genuine attempt to make this planet a better place for my children and grandchildren. We as Americans need to be unified against injustice and issues such as the climate crisis and global poverty, which otherwise are not going away. How do we stop the spread of infectious disease without sufficient and efficient medical care for even the most deprived populations? Who will fight these wars when there is no ground to be fought on? Where will we be when global warming takes away our shorelines and our homes? These issues are not only prevalent in the distant places that we see on our big screen TVs, they are in our backyards and will be in our own living rooms sooner than anyone realizes.

Our nation is closer to the worst financial crisis than we’ve ever been since World War II, and its only getting worse. Both the Democrats and Republicans will need to tax us out the ass in repentance for the economic disaster that we have landed in. I want my tax money to support universal crises, our own underprivileged and poor, as well as other national calamaties such as reversing the disastrous state of social security and our unfortunate healthcare system. I do not want to support the corporations that have landed us in these places by doing things such as sending jobs overseas, nor do I want to fund a war that builds contempt for our country by the hour and further fuels such hatred that brought us to war in the first place. We the people can only compel change in our own homeland through unity and education.

Alas… I’m going on a tangent based on my own self interest and political values and this is not originally what I had hoped to promote (I get my digs in when I can). Please read Barack’s speech, watch the video, and pass it along. It is my own little optimistic wish that his words will affect and influence your own thoughts and ideas based on whatever or whoever you may believe in. Be enlightened.