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October 25, 2006

baggies

We've all heard about how fantastic those Germans and Japanese are at recycling. Here is a fun fact about Canada's recovery rates:

Ninety-two percent of Canadians reuse their plastic bags. Fifty percent of the time they are reused as garbage bags, thirty percent of all bags get recycled and the rest are reused as shopping bags, lunch bags, and to clean up after pets, among other things. Way to go Canadians! Yet, some want to push things even further with a proposed 25 cents-per-bag tax in British Columbia.

Source: Plastics Recycling Update by Resource Recycling

October 23, 2006

board

I won!

I am so excited - I just returned from the general membership meeting at my co-op, where I was running for board - and I won!

Two years ago, when I first returned to Minneapolis I ran for a slightly different board position. I figured that since I had graduated from college - a major mile stone on the road to adulthood (for some - not all) and I wasn't about to get married, have kids, or purchase a house (other optional major milestones) serving on a board would be a great new responsibility to take on. I was looking forward to learning how they operate and sharing that knowledge with my colleagues (who I would be representing). Unfortunately I lost.

Since then I have learned even more about how committees, organizations, boards, and more specifically - the co-op, works; so I am super excited to be able to uncover the mysteries of the board and add icing to all my other bits of knowledge.

Yeah, I know, I am a total geek.

October 18, 2006

talk

I talk a lot. Words just flow from my mouth - sometimes before I even realize what they are saying. However, recently I have become aware that for all my mouthing off, I don't always feel like I am communicating. My first urge is to spout some more words but I try to resist that.

However, as much as I practice listening, that isn't always the missing key either.

I started thinking about the conversations I really enjoy - when there is an exchange of ideas and after it all you are not really sure who said what but everyone involved is really charged. There was usually laughter and some "aha!" moments too.

This sort of falls in with my relationship reflection earlier - it seems I have several different types of (fruitful) conversations. There are the ones when someone says something that just rings and echoes through my head - sometimes forever. And there are times when I say something and I see it have that effect on my listener. While these are both important conversations to have there is a third kind where both parties equally create the dialogue. The radiance of the first two depend on the wisdom of the speaker and the open-mindedness of the listener. Yet for the third type of conversation, no one has to be the wiser, you just have to both be open minded. Neither person necessarily knows the answer but in trying to describe or understand the problem, solutions are figured out and comprehended more fully than if someone told them to you (or you read it in a book).

So I ask myself - how can I have more of those kind of conversations - where we are both learning something and not talking "at" each other?

The first thing I noticed is that I need to stop assuming I know the answer - because that is when I try to give people advice (whether they want it or not). A lack of assumptions seems to be key in real communication. Secondly, even if I think I do have the answer, it doesn't matter. The important answer isn't the one I have in my head but the one both participants come up with together. This is creating or shaping new music instead of just replaying old songs, which will echo and get stuck inside heads for all eternity. Also, this way if the solution fails - I won't be the only one to blame...

October 16, 2006

pain and suffering

With my recent injuries I have been meditating on pain. There is no way to avoid it. When I turn onto my left side I instantly regret it. Sometimes just by getting up or shifting in my seat I am aware of the bruise on my left hip - it really is in a bad spot.

If this were a once in a lifetime thing I might have a different attitude. However, having parents tell me "life is suffering" for the last twenty years has brought a few observations.

A month before the scooter spill I had a similar bicycle accident from which I still haven't quite recovered. In between were at least one if not two or three headaches. Then digging back just a bit farther I suffered from food poisoning and before that I experienced back pains for the first time in my life. I know somewhere in that time frame I had at least one light cold and probably a few stomachaches. Last year I was suffering from regular shoulder pain and before that I had a serious sinus infection or flu about every six weeks.

It seems that just as I am recovering from one physical ailment, another comes along. Is everyone like this? If not, am I weak or just sensitive?

Hanging out with numerous boys over the years I became aware of the fact that as children, they would fight for fun. Many of them also pulled legs off or froze live creatures. All seem equally repulsive to me. Perhaps I am misinterpreting things but I know that violence and the resulting pain seem much more common in boys lives than in my own. Granted, there were always accidents - falling trees, horses, and rope swings, spraining ankles and jumping on nails - but it was never purposely inflicted. We never walked brazenly into pain; it was always the result of doing a risky (but really fun!) activity.

So how do other people deal with pain? Do you walk into it willfully by provoking fights and biting your nails - if so how does that affect your view of it? Do you whine less and accept it more?

Or perhaps my reluctance to take drugs to quiet pain (if something is going to be tough on my liver I prefer it to get me drunk) is what makes me so sensitive and whiny? Some people I know seem to down ibuprofen without even thinking about it. As much as I loathe pain, I worry even more about what would happen to me if I didn't feel it - I take enough risks as it is.

October 15, 2006

economics

I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" with some friends on Friday. I was reluctant to see this film because I thought it would be depressing and this choir does not need to get depressed. While the science behind the Global Warming conclusion was indeed grounding, the producers worked really hard to make this an upbeat positive film. Near the end, when Gore is suggesting solutions to fix the carbon problem, he also busts several myths about environmental issues. My favorite (though it is tough to choose) was the idea of "businesses vs. the environment".

All too often, business proponents act like we can either choose the environment or wealth. However, that view is very short sighted with no vision on how economics and business (and progress) works. The economy and resulting wealth (from a good economy) is the consequence of energy put into being productive. What we produce is entirely up to us and should reflect on our culture and values. Are we going to put energy into environmentally friendly technology and production or into making lots and lots of useless plastic widgets?

The other side of our economic decision is marketing. Are we going to spread tons of money/energy convincing people to purchase useless plastic widgets (the latest model!) or are we going use that drive to convince people to reduce, reuse, recycle, and when they do purchase to possibly spend more money (that they now have because they are not buying tons of useless plastic crap) to purchase quality products that last awhile and are not harmful to the earth? True, shifting from one economic paradigm to the other might include a short tough period but the economy experiences these all the time (think dot-com bubble bursting).

However, on the flip side of free market economy, is government spending. People forget that government spending is not a subsidy but rather an investment for general public benefit. Public schools for instance: regardless of whether or not I have children using them, by investing in the education of my neighbor's child, I am ensuring a better future for my society because this person is going to eventually add to our economy and the wealth of our country.

But what do you do if the finances for schools are competing with another important investment? Currently there is an amendment Minnesotans will vote on in a few weeks to insist that all money earmarked for transportation goes to transportation. In the past, although all money from motor vehicle taxes was supposed to go to transportation, as much as three million of it each year has gone to fund other things.

Transportation, especially in the form of better roads (less congestion) newer buses (more fuel efficient, or electronic) and improved mass transit (get people out of those cars!) is a really important investment - especially in the face of global warming.

Yet, by insisting this money go towards transportation, schools and hospitals (among other things) will be short this year. All three are investments that affect the future of our society - healthier people, educated youth, or improved transportation: How do you decide in a situation like that?

October 10, 2006

time

There simply aren't enough hours in the day lately.

October 08, 2006

grounded

There wasn't really any rain - the roads weren't really wet. Yet somehow I hit the ground for the first time today since I first straddled my beloved scooter. I am still not quite sure what precipitated the slide. I was headed for a yellow light trying to decide whether to dash or stop when it turned red. I hadn't yet hit the intersection yet so I braked and the next thing I knew my head (snugly inside my helmet) was hitting the ground, along with the rest of my body and my scooter was sliding forward (without me) on its side for about ten feet.

I am thankful I fell off so easily. I am thankful I was wearing a helmet. From now on I will be more brazen about running yellow lights.

Currently I am hobbling around with a sore hip, gimpy shoulder and a number of aches but otherwise was very fortunate. My bike just suffered a few cosmetic scrapings.

October 06, 2006

same old new

A year ago I yearned for escape. Although I love Minneapolis I still wanted something more... exotic but homey. I thought it might be India or China, or perhaps somewhere in Eastern Europe. However, to my surprise I discovered Saint Paul instead. In this neighboring city I find the people foreign, the streets windy and ancient feeling, and yet there is a run-down slightly back-water-hickish feel about the place that reminds me of where I grew up. The streets are empty at five; parking is free after four-thirty, yet there are lots and lots of nice restaurants and neighborhood pubs. I swear the place is Minneapolis's best-kept secret.

Tonight I visited the Artist's Quarter for the first time. It was exactly what I imagined. People of all ages were appreciating the CD release party of a Jazz musician. The place was a dark basement with dim lighting and a low ceiling. There were pictures of famous musicians on the walls and the audience was rapt by the music, nodding in time to the beat, with a wine or whiskey glass in hand - just like Jazz clubs the world over.

October 01, 2006

scooter dirt

My air intake unit fell off today. I got about fifty feet from my house before I looked and saw it hanging by a few tiny hoses. At first I thought it was my exhaust something or my muffler. It wasn't until I was nearly done putting it back together that I remembered the muffler is the big metal thing on the other side of the bike. Silly me.

So it wasn't as serious as I thought - after all the bike could run - it could get air fine even without the air intake unit. My brother helped me put it all back together and go to the automotive store for the missing bolts. Actually there are still a few mysteries about the unit - I'll have to go back to the dealer to see if there is a way to make it more secure. My brother said the air intake does help filter and reuse the air making the scooter more environmentally friendly.

I am not a motorized vehicle person but I am learning. It was fun getting my hands dirty with scooter grease. One of these days I'll even figure out how to change the oil.