October 31, 2008

Economic Games

The economy is in tail spin. That's what I read every day in the newspapers and when I consider all I've read in a week my head starts hurting.
One day the Dow is down and everyone is fretting - people aren't buying enough!
Then a few days later it makes a giant leap and everyone sighs relief and says - it will be alright! We are recovered now.
Then some time later it dives again.

Can I get some context on this?

Earlier I recall reading how in debt we are - so it seems reasonable that the economy would slow down as we all take a deep breath and try to pay for what we already have.

However, apparently this causes everyone to panic - because then we are making more widgets than people want - so people get fired because they aren't needed to make widgets anymore. And then the people who were making widgets can afford even less and so now not only are widgets sales down but also doo-dad sales as well. And thus begins the deflation spiral that I read about in the New York Times recently and that my friends and I have discussed for years.

But how did we get here?
By making more widgets than anyone could possibly need (or at least afford) in the first place (or more houses if we want to talk closer to home). I guess this is called an economic bubble.

So what is the remedy?

I agree that the government, which is The People collectively (whether we like it our not), should do something. I don't know how this bailout is going to work though. It seems that they keep lowering interest to encourage people to take out more loans to build more widgets so that the widget makers and afford to by widgets, doo-dads (and houses). The flaw I see in inherent in this "free-market system" is that we really don't need widgets or as I call it "plastic crap from China" (though it could just as easily be from Indonesia, Malaysia, or even the good ol' USA).

Working on the disposal end of things I can tell you that we all already have more than we need and it is coming out of people's ears, eyes, trucks, houses, and other less pleasant places.

I have heard this giant bailout be referred to as our generations' "New Deal". This is a load of crap. I am woefully ignorant of history, mostly gleaned through the tales of my grandparents but even I know that the New Deal resulted in the government spending our money creating infrastructure that would actually improve our society - not just give us more plastic crap that we'll throw out in six months but still be paying interest on.

My recommendation to my government is to take that 700 billion back from the banks and invest it in roads, rail, wind energy, solar technology, green houses for gardens in the city, advanced education programs for our youth and adults, and of course, infrastructure to allow every household in municipalities to have curbside recycling and composting collection in order to ensure that precious resources aren't wasted just because local officials are short sighted or ignorant.

December 12, 2006

recycle those plastic bottles please

I am forever digging recycling out the garbage cans at home. Granted, we don't have the most obvious recycling system (I really need to put some labels up) but it is still a constant reminder to me of the challenges ahead if I can't even get my roommates, who know me, to recycle consistently (or enforce recycling with their guests).

So I wasn't surprised to read that although plastic bottle recycling is increasing, it isn't keeping up with the increase in plastic bottle sales. My roommates are convinced that aluminum cans are the only material worth recycling (and I still find those in the trash occasionally), despite my explanations to the contrary. I am not surprised that most other people don't make the extra effort to recycle that material. With bottled water sales through the roof these days, use of plastic bottles in public spaces is ever increasing. Until we can get successful recycling cans next to every trash can next to every public vending machine we'll continue to keep trashing plastic. Despite my roommates' apathy this isn't just an environmental issue; it is an economic and energy one as well:

Last year our bottle trashing habit cost the equivalent of dumping 18 million barrels of crude oil down the drain.

October 25, 2006


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 15, 2006


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".

Continue reading "economics" »

May 03, 2006

Daily Dose

As noted earlier, I am a Daily Show Junkie. This has as much to do with my crush on Jon Stewart as my appreciation of his perspective on current events. For that reason I can't get into the Colbert report, though I laughed my way through his speech at the Correspondents dinner.

For actual news, I usually browse the locally produced (but not owned) daily paper, weekly alternative (owned by mass media), and a few locally owned and produced neighborhood papers. Occasionally I find time to catch up on, the New York Times, and a dozen other rags of various repute. I am a dedicated fan of CounterSpin as well.

I was psyched when we first got Air America and listened to it a bit but couldn't stand the AM static. Plus I realized that the banter on the radio could easily be found among my peers and roommates. No seriously, I think it could. The value of such banter is to toss ideas back and forth until you get one that sticks in your head and makes you laugh.

For instance, a lengthy conversation with an old friend from my traveling days commented (to paraphrase)
America is going through menopause now! It is time we accepted the fact that we aren't making babies any more. Can't we step aside gracefully!

On a similar vain some one recently commented - we can't liberate a nation - they have to do it themselves. If the Japanese came over and sent the British out before we had a chance to develop our own revolution we wouldn't be thankful.

And my own latest epiphany has been how naively optimistic the President's religious-right are; they thought Iraq would be quick war. They think if we only teach abstinence in schools kids will not have sex. They believe that by making drugs illegal people won't do them. Ha! I grew up among hippies who everyone called idealistic and simple minded. I have to say, my parents' counter-culture generation were realists compared to folks running the country now.

March 22, 2006

Foggy War

It is finally in the headlines today - Bush has no intention of pulling out of Iraq before 2009 and since he isn't running for reelection, he doesn't care what we think about it (doesn't mind "spending political capital"). I am not surprised but only because I recently saw the movie "Why we Fight" - which points out we are currently building eight military bases in Iraq.

That was one of the high points of "Why we fight".

Continue reading "Foggy War" »

March 10, 2006


I have been angry lately - too upset to write.
I am shocked and appalled at how my rights as a woman seem to be eroding quicker than a snow cone in August. Yesterday, buried in the paper (who ever actually reads page B4?) was a short story about a bill being introduced in Minnesota, which would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense specific drugs on moral or religious grounds. How stupid is that? Especially the moral parts? Can you just see the can of worms this opens?

There was an excellent cartoon I saw months ago, which since I can't find, you'll have to picture these people taking out their morals on you:

  • Vegan fast food workers
  • Mormon bartenders
  • animal rights activist pet store clerks
  • Amish car salesmen
  • Christian Scientist pharmacists

Continue reading "updating" »

February 24, 2006

Rights and Polite Society

I am trying to calm myself down after reading about South Dakota and their war against women.

My roommate has resigned himself to the ever-expanding control of the religious right. However, I find I still have some rage in me that I am not sure what to do with. Several thoughts and veins of reasoning are competing in my head.

Continue reading "Rights and Polite Society" »

February 09, 2006

Gender Parity

As the administration keeps attacking our rights over our bodies, girls are revolting in odd ways in the fight for equality. It seems teenage girls have not only caught up but actually surpassed the boys when it comes to doing drugs. This is happening despite a drop in over all teen drug use. Specifically, girls have been popping pills more than boys for a awhile but only recently caught up in the alcohol, and smoking (cigarettes and marijauna) departments. Despite the leveling of the playing field when it comes to doing stupid or exploratory things, experts say that while men tend to imbibe these substances for the adrelalin rush, women do it to escape. However, this theory was stated without a source and I question unnamed experts who don't site studies where they gained their expertise.

Granted, I know being a girl is stressful: they are supposed to be pretty and smart (but not too smart or the boys won't like you), skinny without an eating disorder, confident (but not too confident or people's envy will turn to hate) and while being all this, they are supposed to be discovering their hopes and dreams, what career will be most fulfilling, etc. However, although I have no personal experience, being a boy isn't all that either - they have that whole machismo thing, not being able to express emotions, confusion about their place in the world since the feminist revolution (I am not dissing feminism, mearly saying that many men still haven't come to terms and figured out how to deal with it yet). And once again with men, they want to be smart, but not geeky, handsome without appearing to actually care for their looks (or take care of themselves), and the contradictions go on.

Living with two guys I learn daily about the differences and similarities between the sexes. Henry Rollins, in the latest issue of Bust explemplifies this in how he responds to the threats against Roe v. Wade:

"If I was a woman and you told me I couldn't have an abortion, they would need a construction team to get my foot out of your ass."

Although I know many men who would never phrase their opinion that way, I don't know any, woman who would. Is there a way to respect and acknowledge gender differences without reinforcing gender stereotypes? The same article states, once again without citing a study, that adolescent girls more likely to become addicted to drugs than boys. In the world I grew up in, the reverse was true.

Sadly the study had no hard evidence as to why more girls are trying drugs (though one expert was upset at our President's plans to scale back funds for prevention). Nor was it able to elaborate on the connection between depression, adolescents, and drug abuse.

However, in other news, a health study highlighted in yesterday's paper was done soley on women and then they extrapolated that men's bodies probably react the same. I thought the aspirin hullabaloo taught us that women and men metabolize things differently - when will they ever learn?

December 20, 2005

Ack Climate

A quick search shows plenty of information regarding acclimatization during short periods of time - but what about long term? I heard once that it takes three generations before humans adapt to high altitudes but I haven't seen any scientific data to back that claim. On the other hand, I do have plenty of personal anecdotes. It seems to take me a varying amount of time to acclimate - almost none when I first moved here nine years ago. However, it isn't until my second winter here since I returned that I finally feel comfortable with the cold.

Recently our local weatherman posted a few reasons Minnesotans have weather bragging rights:

Continue reading "Ack Climate" »

June 28, 2004

China's Big Brother

Continue reading "China's Big Brother" »

May 18, 2004


Just when I think I have seen it all, life throws a spin; Sonia Gandhi rejected the offer to become India's latest Prime Minister. Perhaps there really are altruistic politicians out there, who just want the best for their country and are not swayed by promises of power. According the New York Times, Ms Gandhi is just following her "inner voice." She also may be considering the feeling so her children who fear another assassination or the threats of the former ruling party to boycott her leadership. By declining to lead the country officially, Gandhi might be making her unofficial leadership stronger. The Hindu quotes Jairam Ramesh, "A long line of renunciates have dotted India right from the days of Gautama Buddha to Mahatma Gandhi; and, Sonia Gandhi has now joined this pantheon."

Ms Gandhi is not related to the famous Gandhiji, nor was her husband, Rajiv. Rather they are descendents of Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. Sonia Gandhi fell in love with young Rajiv when the were both attending school in Cambridge in the '60s. Neither of them desired or anticipated entrance into the political life, Rajiv's older brother Sanjay was being combed for that position. However when Sanjay died in a plane wreck, the future of the family and its political party fell on the younger brother's shoulders and like a good son, he rose to his duty and continued to do so after his mother, Prime Minister at the time, was assassinated in 1984. Like mother, like son, Rajiv was assassinated seven years after his mother, while he too was Prime Minister. It took years of solitude and pleading by the Congress Party before his widow came out of hiding. She claims she only did it for the good of her adopted country, to help remove the Hindu fundamentalists from power.

Looking at Ms. Gandhi's approach to politics and I can't help but think about another woman who entered the political arena first through marriage, then through elections. I doubt Hillary Clinton will become a renunciate any time soon (though it seems that Al Gore has) and I don't blame her. This is not India; we do not have a history of valuing those who reject the cloak of power. However, I find it interesting that India, with such a reputation for misogyny, does not blink at the thought of women politicians or a woman Prime Minister.

March 23, 2004

Red China in Tibet

I saw Kundun (the story of the Dalai Lama) for the second time in five years last night. It almost made me cry. My Tibetan friend, who arrived her from Amdo about ten years ago did cry. He has seen the movie at least five times.

There are no easy answers or summaries to this conflict, no time line, no idea how or when it is going to end. And of course due to time and language limitations I could only get the briefest view of how life is in Tibet today, under the Chinese.

Continue reading "Red China in Tibet" »