Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav, Go Away

Hurricane Gustav appears to be weakening a bit, but my heart still goes out to all the people from New Orleans who are on the road today, preparing for yet another disaster. Lots of people are blogging. I'm following posts on Best of New Orleans Blog, which has periodic updates from their bloggers’ own evacuation journeys. And Socialized posted last night on on evacuees’ use of Twitter: this may be the first hurricane to be microblogged (but what a great way to stay in touch with friends and family).

I’ve posted the National Hurricane Center widget in the right sidebar, as well as an RSS feed for hurricane-related news (below the widget). I’ll keep both up for a few days. Weather Underground also has a terrific collection of hurricane specific maps, including live radar.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Polar Bears and Polar Veeps

Why is Mr. Polar Bear saying, “Pffffffffft!”? Could it be that Sen. McCain’s veep choice, in addition to being pro-NRA and rabidly anti-choice, is also opposed to the decision to put polar bears on the Endangered Species list? Ah, and Mr. Polar Bear also gives a raspberry for Gov. Palin’s support of drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR).

With such wacky political choices afoot, it’s time to urge Congress to permanently protect ANWR from drilling. The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (H.R. 39) does just that, with bipartisan sponsorship by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN). Care2 has a petition here, to urge support for this bill. For more background, the Sierra Club also has a position paper on why Arctic drilling doesn’t make economic (or environmental) sense.

I’m still trying to figure out this VP choice. Bizarre.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Labor Day Dance Party Friday

I knew what song I wanted for our Labor Day weekend Dance Party Friday — although this might work as well for going back to work on Tuesday. YouTube wasn’t cooperating with the visuals, until I stumbled upon someone’s homemade homage to Dr. Who to accompany the song I wanted. It’s a little odd, yet that’s why you’re here, right?

For everyone who has a job that perhaps has its frustrations: here’s to our labor! It’s the last three-day weekend of summer, let’s dance.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sheryl Crow Wants Y-O-U

What’s the best thing about Sheryl Crow? For me, that’s a long list! But here’s yet another reason she rocks: she’s giving a free digital download of her album Detours to the first 50,000 people who register three friends to vote, via Rock the Vote’s Sheryl Crow Voter Registration Drive page.

C’mon, you know three unregistered voters, I know you do! Plus it’s a great album, including one of my favorite songs — check out this earlier post for the video.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Did I Mention . . .

That this makes me happy?

I got my text message at 2:11 a.m. Central time Saturday morning. As if I hadn’t been up watching every minute of TV coverage until the cable networks ended their live feeds at 2 a.m. Biden’s first presidential run in 1988 was the year I started paying attention to electoral politics, and I’m delighted to see him back on the scene.

You can send Joe Biden a welcome note here. (Fair warning, the screen after that will ask you for a campaign contribution.)

Today’s mitzvah: Are you registered to vote? If not, Rock the Vote has everything you need. And stay tuned tomorrow for a celebrity thank-you gift if you register three of your friends!

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August Update: Cool Down Summer Energy Use

Thanks more to the weather than to me, I’m back on track with the summer energy reduction project. Last month’s increase over the previous year was a surprise, since I hadn’t realized how much I was running the A/C. The mid-August bill isn’t a model of economy, but for one of the hottest months of the year, and with me home writing most days, I was still pleased to see a reduction from 2007. I’ve been trying to turn off the air conditioner overnight as much as possible, and also just getting used to being hot during part of the day, which seems to be paying off. The mid-August bill shows we used 456 kWh in the invoice period. While this is certainly up from July, it’s still less about 9.5% less than the same bill last year.

Here’s where we are
. Meter readings and dates (better month bolded):
  • June 2007: 276 kWh / June 2008: 179 kWh
  • July 2007: 236 kWh / July 2008: 334 kWh
  • August 2007: 476 kWh / August 2008: 456 kWh
  • September 2007: 232 kWh
  • TOTALS: Summer 2008: ???? / Summer 2007: 1220 kWh
Overall we’re slightly ahead of this point last summer (969 kWh this year, vs. 988 kWh at this point in 2007). My math skills are tenuous at best, but this looks like a 9.8% improvement. My goal is 10% for the summer, with just one more billing period to go. Will we make it? Stay tuned!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Still Dancing, All Summer

I’m looking for someone to go to the North Pole and turn the earth backward on its axis so I can have another month of summer.

My ode to summer, still going strong 45+ years on. Let’s twist!

Monday, August 18, 2008

How to Make A Box from Scrap Paper

As if I needed any more reason to love Etsy: check out this Etsy Labs video on how to make a sweet little box out of a piece of paper. The only tools you need are a pair of scissors and some folding ability. The video uses scrap construction paper, but I used magazine pages for mine, pictured here (non-glossy pages worked best). Since I am more than a little spatially challenged, this took me more than one try. But I’m pretty happy with the results, which would be good for a little upcycled gift box or for holding paperclips and small things on a desk. The video also demonstrates how to make a second box for a lid, but I haven’t advanced to the intermediate stage yet.

Now that I’ve decorated your desk for you — back to work!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Papers: August 17

From pink polka dot trashbags appearing overnight to Norway’s new favorite knight, here’s a round-up of news and notes for your Sunday reading pleasure!

Corn Cobs --> Biofuel
There’s been a lot of controversy over biofuels that use food crops as a base — the argument being that these divert food from the hungry and have contributed to soaring food costs worldwide. Now a South Dakota company called Poet has found a way to make ethanol not from corn itself, but from corn cobs discarded after the corn kernels have been removed. This seems to be part of a growing eco-correction away from re-purposed food crops and toward waste products from agricultural production as a base for everything from disposable plates to tree-free paper. (CNET Green Tech)

How green is thy campus?

Campus Grotto gives the rundown on the Princeton Review’s picks for Greenest Colleges. There are some terrific choices in there, including College of the Atlantic and Bates College (yo, PBJ, nice going!). Some of the other choices raised an eyebrow. Harvard and Yale, really? I think there might be better choices, including Daily Mitzvah’s own alma mater. And I don’t think the Ivy League can match Eckerd College’s green take-out containers, which I blogged about earlier.

And now, the countdown to my favorite story of the week:

#3: All I want for Christmas is . . .
Lots of news outlets picked up this story, but I liked NPR’s headline the best: “Muggles A Step Closer to Creating Invisibility Cloak.” Add this to my George Jetson flying car and I will be a very happy camper.

#2: What’s pink polka dotted, smells like Juicy Fruit, and a little bit trashy?
Residents of Greenwich Village and Soho found out recently, when they awakened to streets piled high with big pink polka dot trashbags. The TRASH Project is a “a viewer generated public art installation” to bring awareness to environmental issues through unexpected guerilla/ public art. The project blog has fab photos of oversized pink polka dot trashbags, made from recycled plastic and imbued with a fruity scent to keeps rodents away. I didn’t want to lift their groovy photos, so you’ll want to hop over to see them at the source. (Thanks to Everyday Trash for the link.)

And my favorite story of the week . . .

Norway has knighted a penguin. That’s Nils Olav — er, make that Sir Nils Olav — at right reviewing the troops. With perseverance, hard work, charm, and a certain penguin je ne se qua, Sir Nils worked his way through the ranks, according to Sky News earning the titles of “Corporal, Sergeant, Regimental Sergeant-Major, Honourable Sergeant Major and, in 2005, Honorary Colonel-in-Chief.” (Sky News)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dance Party Friday: August 15, 1969

I was looking for something sweet and relaxing to balance a hectic week. Since today is the 39th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, here’s a chill-out video with some Canned Heat.

Have a good Friday. And happy birthday, Woodstock!

No, silly, not you. The other Woodstock.

Peace out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Olympic Sport Are You?

I’m hitting writing deadlines till the end of the month, so my posts are lighter than I would like. But I do like this quiz, which answers the important question, What Olympic Sport Are You?

You Are Kayaking

You have a competitive spirit, but you don't like to compete alone.
You do well in a partnership, where you can feed off the other person's energy.
If you have the right partner, nothing can stop you. Your energy is infinite!

You’re next!
What Olympic Sport Are You?

Monday, August 11, 2008

(Really) Creative Uses for Junk Mail

A site that’s new to me, called ProQuo, ran a very cool article last week entitled “Top 10 Creative Uses for Junk Mail.” Most of these ideas are quite artistic — and visually striking. For those who are less artistically inclined, the article also provides quick and easy instructions for making homemade paper out of the junk that comes in the mail each week. Or there’s always the eco-unfriendly (yet soul satisfying) strategy of mailing back a brick in a Business Reply Envelope mailer, increasing the brick’s carbon footprint but also costing the junk mailer some $$$, since they pay by weight.

Although well beyond my skill level, I was fascinated by some ideas from the artist duo Burtonwood and Holmes (whose junk mail tank is pictured here). This is part of a series that also includes junk mail missiles and travels around the world in various installations including “Price War!” and “I Support the War / The War Supports Me.”

Turning the Junk Mail Machine into ammunition against the War Machine seemed like a good way to start the week, so here you go!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Sixties Sing-and-Spin

Flippin’ like a pancake, poppin’ like a cork. Before Barney was an annoying glimmer in anyone’s misguided eye, those of us who were poppets in the late ‘60s had practical educational television like H.R. Puffnstuff — yep Puff-N-Stuff, wafting right over the heads of network censors — and everyone’s favorite Drivers’ Ed instructors, The Banana Splits. Boomerang did a nice job restoring the print, although if I channel my preschool self, I think the original was more psychedelic and sparkly.

Yep, this explains a lot about my work ethic. Have a happy, happy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Daily Mitzvah Daily Digest

Well, “daily” as in here’s what I’ve been reading today.

Just in time for back to-school, Environmental News Network has its picks for the year’s Greenest Notebook Computers, a companion piece to its earlier Greenest Deskstop Computers review. Nice choices in both articles, although the laptops were not cheap.

Ever since I did not buy the “adult tricycle” that was for sale outside an apartment building on our street — well call me Very Odd, but I’ve been kicking myself because I kinda want one of these quasi-retro contraptions for errands in the nabe (that basket would be great for groceries). It turns out they’re crazy expensive when purchased new — a drag, because I’ll bet the one I saw was affordable, as my street is a veritable bargain bonanza in August when many of our neighborhood ex-pats head home and need to unload their U.S.-purchased stuff. For those feeling flush with cash, Grist’s Ask Umbra column has a buying guide for the brand spanking new ones.

Riding one of these sporty speed machines requires sunscreen, natch. Mom Go Green has been more dedicated than I am about searching out a sunscreen that’s affordable, low on chemicals, and not an icky consistency. Read why she is less lazy than I am here.

And Consumerist has a great reminder post that in a bad economy the public library is your new best friend (with thanks for the link to Hop To It — who just had a birthday! Many happy-hoppy returns!)

OK, back to work. I hope Thursday is treating everyone well.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Trash, Anyone?

I’m on a writing deadline and not spending as much time as I would like here on Daily Mitzvah. But I did want to mention that Carnival of the Green — the traveling digest of eco-friendly blog posts — has set up its tents at Everyday Trash this week. That makes two reasons to visit, since Everyday Trash is one of my favorite web destinations, full of great photos and quirky stories.

I’m hosting Carnival of the Green in December 2009 — if you don’t want to wait that long (hah!), tootle over here to see what’s new and green this week.

Wish me luck on the writing!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Charity Piggybank Update: July Totals

I would be willing to give a contribution from the piggy bank to anyone who can make the summer slow down! But in the interim: it’s time for the monthly Daily Mitzvah Charity Piggy Bank update. In keeping with the blog’s theme, this is a small way to make a difference in a big world (even on a budget). Here are the July totals:
  • Proportional giving: $37.13
  • Savings account interest, with thanks to ING!: $8.10
  • Found money: $0.40
  • Rebates for BYO grocery bags: $1.60
  • Balance forward: $246.31
  • NEW TOTAL: $293.54

Today’s mitzvah: Consider creating a “charity piggy bank” to collect small sums for a year-end charitable contributions. And start thinking about what I should do with this in December, since the year is zoomin’ by!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dancing Friday: Hipsters A Go-Go

Get out your coonskin caps, cuz I’ve been searching the nether regions of YouTube and it’s time to dance. This may be a group called Pizzicato Five. They may be Japanese or Italian (or both). They’re definitely twisting to a song called “Twiggy Twiggy.” Now get off that couch and dance. Daniel Boone coonskin cap, optional.

Happy First Friday in August.

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