Friday, April 29, 2005

Arbor Day--Here's to Keeping It Green

You remember when you were in school and when Arbor Day rolled around, you and your classmates planted trees around the schoolyard or in a local park? Those of you still so inclined might want to browse the site for the Arbor Day Foundation, where you can receive great trees for a small donation. Another great arboreal project to support might be to help revive the fortunes of the once-mighty American chestnut, most of them having been felled by disease decades ago, and find out why they were know as the redwood of the East.

My way of observing the day will be to save some trees, by saving paper. To get started recycling paper, you might consult one of the following practical guides: Xerox's Business Guide to Waste Reduction and Recycling, or the Office Paper Recycling Guide. Naturally, you want to complete the cycle by purchasing and using recycled paper, when you do use paper. I like the Xerox 100% Recycled Multipurpose Paper (20 lb.), which is widely available from Staples. I'm able to afford this slightly pricey paper because I've cut way down on both my use of paper and (expensive!) printer ink, saving money as well as natural resources when printing, especially when printing from the Internet.

Paper/Ink/Space/Money-Saving Internet Printing Tips
  • The first tip might be not to print from the Internet at all, especially from a site you're not sure you'll visit again. Instead, use an online bookmark manager service such as Furl or Spurl (both are free; you simply need to register and create a username and password). In addition to storing particular web pages, these services archive them (allowing you to create your own Wayback Machine, in effect), eliminating the problem of extinct links. Moreover, you can use them with most browsers, and on more than one computer--like portable bookmarks. (Thus, if your own PC is unavailable, you can sign onto the service on another computer and access your bookmarks from there. [Using Furl, you don't even need to download the software onto another computer--simply go to and sign in]).
  • One of the most frugal printing habits, if you still decide to print, is to always use the Print Preview, before (and after, when possible) hitting the "printer" or "printer-friendly" type button. It shows the entire number of pages in the file--and lets you know which pages are worth printing. Look at the first and last pages of the preview, so that you can find any mystery blank pages, or extraneous stuff on the first or last page that's not worth printing. That way, you can then specify which pages you wish to print, and leave any pages you don't want to print out of the print range. You can also check margins while in this mode and see if they need adjusting (especially if you notice that the endings of words are cut off near the right margin). If possible, place a Print Preview button on the toolbar of your browser for quick access.
  • Even if you're about to print from a PDF version of a document, peruse the first and last pages of the document before printing--they may be blank, or have information that is not relevant for your purposes; you can then also decide to specify a print range, and print from there.
  • Please get into the habit of using Ctrl-P, instead of using the Print icon on IE. This will allow you to choose the thrifty-printing options before printing. Often, clicking on a Print button immediately prints your file, with all the wasteful defaults. (One exception is the Netscape 7.xx Print icon, which always allows you to choose options first, and also contains the Print Preview feature for convenience). Another good practice might be to print from within the 'Print Preview' mode (which also allows you to select the frugal printing options).
  • Print using black ink when printing text. It's cheaper, prints faster than color, and you don't have to worry about running out of a particular color. My HP printer requires that there be both a color and black cartridge in the printer when printing, but I keep the color one empty and only use (and replace) the black one.
  • Unless you're printing the final copy of a resume, choose the 'draft', 'fast', or similar print quality print, for you probably won't notice much difference between that and the more thirsty print quality options. Plus, the file prints much faster using the draft mode, and uses much less ink.
  • Choose a double-sided printing option when printing more than one page. (HP refers to it as "book" printing). This option massively cuts the amount of paper printed for most files, by half for a file with an even number of pages! You access it from the Print menu's Properties button.
  • If printing a single page that you don't want to waste ink on giant mastheads or ads, after choosing the print-friendly icon (if available), highlight the text you wish to print, then Ctrl-P, click in the Selection button, choose the print quality, and click OK. Selecting text to print is also useful when you have a document that is, say, barely two pages long; by lopping off the masthead and ads, you can often make it a one-page file (putting less wear and tear on your printer). Selecting text is also useful if you wish to print from a site that does not have a "print-friendly" icon. Highlight the desired text, choose the double-sided, draft, and black ink options, and see how the page prints. Often, the site will print the pages just as you wanted. (This is where that middle scroll bar on your mouse comes in handy.)
  • Some final frugal moves for anyone familiar with bookmarklets might be to use one of the following: Hide Images, whenever the "printer-friendly" button still allows ads through, and Restore Selecting, if highlighting text on a site does not work at first.
Hope this helps ease your paper jam.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Denial is Not a River in Egypt...

What a relief--the police have finally a suspect in the serial arson cases! The thought of that prowler creeping around setting fires to folks' home while they were asleep gave me a few shudders and sleepless nights. Who knew where he would strike next?

Predictably, some of Sweatt's acquaintances and neighbors can't imagine that the man whose "demons told him" to set fires, did just that. In today's Washington Post [free reg. req'd.], an acquaintance is quoted as saying, "Don't they have to prove it? I don't think it was him." Well, police arrested the guy because they found evidence, and Sweatt then confessed to setting at least one of the fires. What sane person can fathom that anyone could commit such crimes until they happen--they're almost unimaginable by nature. More denial of depravity occurred recently, after the alleged killers of a stripper were arrested. Not only did they kill the woman, but police found a pipe bomb (or two) in their home. Nevertheless, camera crews managed to find someone to vouch for her dangerous neighbors' "niceness." Why not simply keep quiet when so confronted, or at least admit that you didn't know the person as well as you thought?

The frightening and frustrating reality is that many criminals are "nice, nonthreatening" types, at least some of the time. (Prove this yourself by perusing your jurisdiction's sex offenders' web site, and note how many of the offenders appear normal and nonthreatening, even in those relatively unflattering mug shots.)

People still are often not what they seem to be.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Happy Passover...

Passover, that great commemoration of a people's liberation, incorporates various messages:

  • That God uses the most unlikely people to create change. Moses had murdered a man, which was why he had been exiled, but God used him to lead his people. (Exodus 3:10)
  • That God brings us through apparently impossible situations, even while the world around us seems to be falling apart.
  • That God uses all kinds of people and situations to bring us closer. Not only were Moses and Aaron imploring the pharoah to let the people go, but even some of the pharoah's officials "feared the word of the Lord" (Exodus 9:20) and did as Moses proclaimed!
  • That we do not know what is in other people's hearts, that people often don't know what they themselves are feeling. Pharoah flip flopped regarding whether to let the Hebrews go, numerous times, before finally doing so. He then regretted doing that, and sent his army after the people. (Exodus 14:5-6)
  • That God wants freedom from oppression for peple from all nations. The Hebrews were not the only ones who left in the Exodus--they were joined by others, who were presumably also sick of being enslaved. (Exodus 12:37-38)

Just a few stray thoughts for Passover.

Friday, April 22, 2005

(All Aboard for) Earth Day

So far, 2005 has been a banner year for increased awareness of pressing environmental problems, with the growing instability of oil prices (and concurrent talk that the world's oil production may have peaked, or soon will), additional signs of global warming, (such as glaciers melting much faster than expected), and even, increased media coverage of Christian concern for the environment.

It is worrisome, though, that much of the discussion is about the supply of, and our dependence on, oil, when in fact, the real problem is our overreliance on petroleum (nitpicking!) in general, not just on oil used as fuel. Everything synthetic is currently manufactured from petroleum--fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, as well as plastic in all its incarnations. This undue reliance is so unnecessary as, ironically, two of the men most responsible for the modern dependency on automobiles were also promoters of non-petroleum fuels and materials, with hopes of empowering farmers and small industries.

Rudolf Diesel
's engines originally used peanut and other vegetable oils as fuel. Interestingly, the new diesel-powered cars from Europe run on clean, reduced-sulfur diesel fuel, and can even run unmodified with a biodiesel blend (a blend of petroleum diesel and diesel from vegetable and animal sources, such as soybean oil). Some enterprising folk have (and do) operating their diesels with the leftover frying oil from fast food outlets! (How's that for recycling?)

Even more shocking was Henry Ford's promotion of plant-based petroleum alternatives in the early and mid-20th century. There's a famous photo of Ford taking a hammer to one of his vehicles in 1941 (at the 15th Annual Dearborn Michigan Homecoming Day celebration); this car's body was made of soybean-based plastic, and he was demonstrating its toughness (the hammer bounced off the car's body). In fact, Ford invited the press to see that and other products made from soybeans at that exhibition, as he had previously, at the 1934 World's Fair. Ford believed, as did Diesel, that utilizing the soybean and other plants more fully would help both farmers and small industries. (So, contrary to popular misconception, Henry's great-grandson Bill Ford is not the first environmentalist in the Ford family.)

What, you might ask, thwarted the widespread industrial use of soybeans and other agricultural materials in industry? You guessed it, the price of petroleum dropping in the mid-20th century after the largest Saudi oilfields went into production, making petroleum cheaper to produce than these worthy alternatives.

In reality, our reliance on petroleum is so ingrained that it is used for even relatively insignificant products, which, when widely used, continue the petrol dependency. One small step in breaking the non-fuel aspect of petroleum dependence might be to a well-stocked local health food store, as its repertoire of petroleum alternatives consists of more than the organic produce. For instance, the body care and cosmetic product lines carried by such a store rarely, if ever, contain petroleum products (there's even a product called Unpetroleum Jelly, which works as well as its petrol counterpart), and even the ink used to print the weekly store specials is often a soy-based one!

Will we be ready for a change?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Safe Keeping...

As so much recent crime news stories seem to involve abductions, the article How to NOT Be Abducted seems relevant. Many of the tips mentioned involve what not to do in a parking lot, but a few are general safety tips, and are also extremely helpful.

Passover, or, a Celebration of Liberation

Passover, to be celebrated this weekend, celebrates liberation, for a people, and, ultimately, for humanity in general.

Regarding the theme of liberation more fully, those celebrating Passover might consider having a vegetarian Passover seder. (After all, it was Moses' gentleness tending sheep that caused God to give him leadership over a human 'flock.')

Recipes appropriate for a vegetarian seder are available over the Internet, including a site with recipes for a Sephardic seder, as well as a site with articles on vegetarianism and Judaism in addition to recipes. As kosher regulations involve meat and other animal products, vegan dishes are inherently kosher--they only require the blessing of a rabbi. Shalom!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A New, Old Tradition

Earlier today was a great day for a parade, and a parade there was in Washington. Today, the first official Emancipation Day celebration in D.C. was the first time the occasion had been celebrated in many years. It got its start when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862, freeing Washington's slaves some time before the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in other areas. Emancipation Day was celebrated as a holiday for years before it fell out of favor.

What's old is new again.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Take Me out to the Ballgame...

I'm of two minds regarding the debut of the Washington Nationals at RFK. It was thrilling to see baseball, that unofficial harbinger of spring, being played professionally in Washington after an absence of decades, and people of all ages actually getting exciting about something other than, say, a tax refund. (Not that I wasn't excited when I received mine!)

On the other hand, I hope that the goodwill of the fans and of the city is not trampled upon by the team owners, as it almost was in the process of getting the team to town by their rigidity. (With all that tough talk the owners threw at the city--the take-it-or-leave-it attitude [or, more accurately, the take-it-or-we'll-leave state of mind]--shouldn't a television deal have been negotiated by now? Or do the team owners demonstrate a tough stance only with politicians, who were supposed to ensure that the deal didn't take city residents to the proverbial cleaners?)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

For Us the Living...

In mourning the passing of John Paul II, one beautiful way to uphold his memory would be to contribute to a cause close to his heart, aiding the poor. Organizations that have done so over the long haul include Bread for the World, which lobbies to end hunger in the U.S. and abroad, as well as educates the public on causes of hunger, and ways to end it.

Another, Save the Children, helps in a variety of ways, such as increasing economic opportunities via micro-enterprise programs, to help women start small businesses, and in building strong local micro-finance institutions to continue economic growth in their communities.

Of course, you can help closer to home. Local food banks welcome donations of both food and funds; unfortunately, an increasing number of the people who receive services from food banks are working people, so the impact of a gift to such an institution would be immediate.

Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14: 12-14)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Spring Forward, to ... (Yawn?)

I barely remembered to perform my pre-daylight savings time ritual, to turn the clocks and watches forward before going to bed--it's just too traumatic, and disappointing to do it after you wake up in the morning; when I wait to turn them, I feel like I've truly wasted time.

Supposedly, there's an upside to this seasonal madness. David Prerau, writing recently in the New York Times, claims that it would be advantageous if daylight savings time began even earlier in the year, and, also ended later in the year. (See the March 31st editorial, "Spring Forward Faster" [free registration req'd].

I'm yet to be convinced, however, as people already don't get enough sleep. A book I read a few years (one which, ironically, contributed to a couple of sleepless nights itself), Stanley Coren's Sleep Thieves, was a frightening, ahem, wake-up call for our need for sufficient sleep, and the consequences of extended periods of sleep deprivation. In addition to information and profiles of people in other professions who often lack sufficient sleep, the author conducted an informal experiment, to determine how much sleep he actually needed to function well. It wasn't pretty.

In that spirit, I submit a few good links, with information on how to get good sleep, and another with information sleep disorders (and plenty of other sleep resources), links which I do not think are directly supported by manufacturers of sleeping pills. One is the article, "How to Sleep for a Better Tomorrow," a brief but useful compilation of good sleeping tips. Another is from sleep research pioneer William C. Dement, full of resources and information. A final sleep link, which contains 101 questions about sleep.

Now, hit the sheets!