Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Story of Stuff - Ch.1: Introduction

There's not much more to say. See my previous posts: On throwing it all away and On how our stuff owns us and check out

Saturday, December 8, 2007

On the progress of disease:

I came across an article in Time recently: “Why Breast Cancer is spreading Around the World,” by Kathleen Kingsbury (Time, October 15, 2007) “Plus: A Guide to the Latest Treatments,” the cover package promised.

From the data presented in the article, it is clear that breast cancer rates have risen along with the adoption of western lifestyles and diets in developing countries, yet with a bizarre sense of arrogance, the article focuses on the deprivation of the women of these countries because they don’t have access to modern medicine and equipment. Oh, those poor women who don’t have our advances! Ironically, they didn’t have cancer that needed treatment until they assumed our “advances”: processed food and high-stress but sedentary lives.

Though it supposedly sets out to reveal truths, science often has a dizzying ability to obscure them instead. The researchers who were consulted for this article apparently reported that the reason for the skyrocketing rates of breast cancer in developing countries is that improved public health allows women to live long enough to be susceptible to breast cancer. Several of the women described in the article are 40!

Aren’t the scientists, doctors and even journalists here missing something that is exceedingly obvious? If we could let go for just a minute of our manifest destiny to be the smartest and best, we might see the incredible opportunity here to turn back the clock on this modern disease. Rather than modern medicine for a disease brought on by modern life, isn’t it possible that the cure for all of us lies in a return to the traditional practices and diets that allowed people in undeveloped areas of the world good health before they began following our example?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On slowing down:

In a world where the U.S. mail is now compared to a snail rather than a pony, a dial up modem-- which can bring information from all over the world in a matter of minutes-- is considered intolerably slow, and where slow is defined unflatteringly as:

apathetic, crawling, creeping, dawdling, delaying, deliberate, dilatory, disinclined, dreamy, drowsy, easy, gradual, heavy, idle, imperceptible, inactive, indolent, inert, lackadaisical, laggard, lagging, lazy, leaden, leisurely, lethargic, listless, loitering, measured, moderate, negligent, passive, phlegmatic, plodding, ponderous, postponing, procrastinating, quiet, reluctant, remiss, slack, sleepy, slothful, slow-moving, sluggish, snaillike, stagnant, supine, tardy, torpid, tortoiselike,

it’s easy to forget what’s so good about slow.

All kinds of clichés and pop songs point out the wisdom of taking things slowly at least some of the time:

Take time to smell the flowers.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Slow down. You move to fast. Got to make the moment last…

Truth is:

Slow food tastes better and is usually better for you than fast food.

Hypermiling (coasting and slow acceleration) saves gas and the planet.

Relationships which have developed slowly often seem to last longer.

But if conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence isn’t enough to convince you to slow down, maybe scientific evidence that slow is better for your health will do it.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 75 - 90 percent of doctor visits stem from stress. Though itself somewhat intangible, stress causes various undeniably real physical reactions:

• “heart rate and blood pressure soar to increase the flow of blood to the brain to improve decision making,

• blood sugar rises to furnish more fuel for energy as the result of the breakdown of glycogen, fat and protein stores,

• blood is shunted away from the gut, where it is not immediately needed for purposes of digestion, to the large muscles of the arms and legs to provide more strength in combat, or greater speed in getting away from a scene of potential peril,

• clotting occurs more quickly to prevent blood loss from lacerations or internal hemorrhage.

These and myriad other immediate and automatic responses have been exquisitely honed over the lengthy course of human evolution as life saving measures to facilitate primitive man's ability to deal with physical challenges. However, the nature of stress for modern man is not an occasional confrontation with a saber-toothed tiger or a hostile warrior but rather a host of emotional threats like getting stuck in traffic and fights with customers, co-workers, or family members, that often occur several times a day. Unfortunately, our bodies still react with these same, archaic fight or flight responses that are now not only not useful but potentially damaging and deadly. Repeatedly invoked, it is not hard to see how they can contribute to hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, ulcers, neck or low back pain and other "Diseases of Civilization".” American Institute of Stress

“In conditions of stress, our adrenal glands must work very hard to create numerous hormones that regulate the blood sugar and help the body heal.” What Causes Heart Attacks by Tom Cowan, Wise Traditions, Fall 2007. If the adrenal glands are worn out by chronic stress or repeated episodic stress, they can’t do this essential work.

Slow. Because the tortoise beat the hare (who had a stress-related heart attack). Best of all, the tortoise got to smell the flowers along the way.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

On election day:

It was quiet at my polling place tonight. No, city council elections aren’t all that sexy, but we Americans need to start exercising that voting muscle before it atrophies completely.

According to Naomi Wolf (The End of America) and some other non-crazy students of society, it’s entirely possible that our rights are being chipped away, so this is no time to stop using them.

Our founding fathers, in their infinite wisdom, gave us the electoral college and a diluted democracy. It works pretty well when citizens do their duty and vote. When they don’t, a few people can exert disproportionate power over our national destiny.

Relatively few votes were coerced (by Fox News) in 2000 and (by post 9/11 fear mongering) in 2004 and even stolen (mostly from black Americans through what might be called voter profiling). These crimes were magnified through our (probably flawed) electoral process to change the results of an election and, yes, even the course of history.

Today members of our government are defying our Constitution and the Geneva Convention and Naomi Wolf (among others) says they’re starting to act like a fascist dictatorship. And Americans don’t vote. By shirking our civic responsibility we are tacitly allowing our democracy to be hijacked.

Through the institution of the electoral college, the founders were trying to protect their own aristocratic asses from the whims of the “riff raff” (aka the people). It’s ironic, but it turns out that the riff raff are the only ones who can save us now.

With respect, Riff Raff: get out and vote.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

On getting the lead out:

I’m looking for an apartment for myself and my 3 year-old son. In the great state of Massachusetts, we have a lead law that says if a landlord rents to a family with a child under 6 years old, s/he must delead the apartment. This seems like it can only be a good thing but turns out to be a double-edged sword. It’s expensive to delead, so landlords—being in business to make money, or at least to cover costs-- find ways to refuse renting to people with young kids if they don’t want to delead. This is discrimination and is technically illegal, but unenforceable since no one can say a landlord didn’t have another legitimate reason.

And realtors are complicit because they don’t even want to waste their time showing tenants with young children apartments that aren’t deleaded, making it that much easier for landlords to avoid facing the issue.

Some landlords seem to have plenty of money to do extensive renovations to make their units able to demand more rent, but they don’t go the extra mile to delead. So deleaded apartments are rare and in high demand. Having also cost a substantial sum to be deleaded, they are not surprisingly, more expensive than non deleaded apartments with the same features in the same areas.

A law that must have been intended to help families with young children ends up reducing drastically their choices in housing and increasing their costs.

There must be another way.

When we as a society realized that it was completely unfair that many buildings were inaccessible to the significant segment of the population with disabilities, we didn’t make a law that made it voluntary for building owners to add ramps and elevators. We made a law—the Americans with Disabilities Act-- that required that buildings be changed. It wasn’t overly onerous. Some buildings didn’t have to be changed right away, but when major renovations were to be done, they had to include measures to bring accessibility in accordance with the law. The effectiveness of the (decidedly non voluntary) ADA is apparent all over our built environment (lower light switches and door handles among other details). At my alma mater, venerable old buildings now have wheelchair ramps artfully designed to blend with 19th century architecture. Ramps have become an integral part of today’s new buildings and it’s a good thing.

There must be at least as many families with young children as there are people with disabilities, and the lead issue really is a matter of accessibility too.

We need a law that-- either now or over a reasonable period of time (maybe 15 years)-- actually solves the problem of toxic lead in homes and makes affordably-priced, safe apartments accessible for families like mine.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

On Blog Action Day: possible solutions to global climate change

Today is Blog Action Day! Thousands of bloggers around the world will blog today about the environment. Here’s my contribution:

The elevation of Al Gore to demigod status has got me thinking about the enormity of the global climate change problem. It’s so difficult, in large part, because by developing as we have with far flung suburbs dependent on urban jobs (and with the proliferation of office parks, the reverse) and hermetically sealed tall buildings, we’ve locked ourselves into driving long distances and using H, V or AC year-round. Many egregious carbon-generating luxuries have become needs. It’s too hard to unravel energy use from the lives and economy we’ve worked so hard to build and maintain, so we just don’t. Some Americans seem to be blithely unaware that there’s even a need to do things differently, but even those of us who think about it and work at it every day, find it nearly impossible to make significant change. (For an amazing example of someone who has, visit

Even countries that have made a commitment to reduce emissions are coming up short. I was listening to national public radio the other day and heard a report about Japan’s failure to meet its emissions reduction goals set out in the Kyoto protocols. It is widely understood that even if the US were to reduce its emissions, increases in emissions by developing countries like China and India would more than cancel them out.

We are going to have to make dramatic changes quickly in the way we live and work if we want to keep Earth inhabitable for humans.

A Brave New World Wide Web
A friend of mine, I’ll call him P, floated an idea for a possible solution that I think has merit: technology. P’s not talking about new energy technologies, though I’m sure he’d agree we should continue to work on those. He’s suggested that internet technology and computers (which are being built to use less and less energy) could soon allow everyone to telecommute so that we wouldn’t have to drive in order to work. In fact, what he said was that we could live our entire lives on the net. He may have said it tongue in cheek but I think it’s an interesting idea.

During the last Congressional election, I participated in the Move On “Call for Change” campaign, which used nationwide conference calls and video teleconferences to bring all the volunteers together. Having experienced the power and the great sense of community during that campaign, and right here in the blogosphere (and the lack of community in my neighborhood), I wonder if eliminating the need for proximity and cultivating our ability to form affinity groups globally, wouldn’t be a very good thing.

Back to Our Agrarian Roots
That said, I’m a bit of a traditionalist and even though it’s been a long time since I’ve lived in one, I love the feel of a small town. The process of a town meeting is, at least in some ways, more satisfying than any web forum or national conference call. Despite technology, proximity still creates affinity (or at least interdependence).

I’m also a believer in Traditional Nutrition (see Weston A. Price Foundation link at right) and thinking about how to get better quality food (usually direct from farms) has led me to realize that our ancestors had a lot of things right.

A sort of purposeful regression as a society to a small town, agrarian model would cut down on our need to travel long distances regularly and eliminate the great quantity of emissions created in support of our current food distribution system (almost all of our food is trucked to market in tractor trailers and more and more is flown in from other countries). Returning to our agrarian roots would put people back in touch with the land and, very probably, would lead to the planting of more carbon neutralizing vegetation. As a bonus we’d likely have richer lives in close-knit communities. We could more effectively and more naturally provide social supports for young families, elders… for everyone really. We'd also eat better.

Perhaps the most feasible and livable solution would be some combination of these two. Picture yourself churning butter from fresh raw milk in the morning, attending a teleconference with other hedge fund managers on farms in the UK and Hong Kong in the afternoon, and, climate change having stabilized, blogging about humanity’s next great challenge (by the light of a solar-powered lamp) deep into the night.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On offensive policy:

I’ve been too busy to blog lately (though not too busy to fume silently!) so this will have to go under the heading of better late than never.

A few weeks back, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad visited the U.S. and requested that he be allowed to pay his respects at Ground Zero. He was refused by U.S. officials and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

As a human being, the man deserved the basic decency it would have taken to honor this request. As the president of another nation, he deserves the shiny black car, the cadre of press and the respect granted to any visiting dignitary. As president of the nation that’s been framed as our arch enemy of the moment, he deserves handling with kid gloves too.

I know some people can’t believe a Muslim can feel compassion for Americans regarding 9/11. I know some people are incensed that someone from one of the countries that perpetrated the atrocities of that day would show up and try to set foot on that sacred ground. But wait a minute—Iran wasn’t involved in 9/11! Iraq wasn’t involved. Real Muslims believe murder is wrong just like Christians do!

I think what Ahmadinejad really wants is for Iran to be taken seriously as a player on the world stage and he’s willing to be pretty belligerent to make sure he isn’t ignored. If that is the case, then why piss him off for no particular reason? Why not give him lots of respect when he’s trying to do the right thing? Why not bank some diplomatic points for when the going gets tougher? Like when we’re trying to convince him not to build a bomb, for example.

But maybe his motives weren’t pure. A more cynical view is that he was looking for PR or to make the U.S. look bad. So what if he got some positive press? How would it have hurt us to let him look good? We’d have ended up looking good too. And if he was trying to make us look like the bad guy, we ended up playing right into his hands.

Another offensive policy decision from the administration that brought you preemptive war.

Monday, September 17, 2007

On Iraq: Shocking stupidity and awesome responsibility

I think most of my readers know me but even if you don’t, all you have to do is read my blog to know I have an opinion on just about everything. So it’s been uncomfortable and strange not feeling like I could form an opinion about whether or not the U.S. should pull out of Iraq. I’m clear on whether we should have invaded in the first place; I have been since way back in 2003 when I hung a “No War in Iraq” poster in my window and marched in demonstrations to no avail. (It’s nice to be vindicated, I guess, though I don’t really care for how that’s come about.) It’s a lot more complicated now. Clearly, leaving after creating chaos and dependence isn’t benign in the same way as not going in the first place.

I’ve been active in Move On in the past but I have to say I don’t particularly care for their position here. I’m a devout Democrat, but I don’t care for the positions of most democrats in Congress or Presidential candidates either. There’s something smarmy and political about rhetoric that says it’s the Iraqis' fault if they can’t pull themselves together to meet benchmarks, that the U.S. isn’t going to “hold their hands” forever. They didn’t make this particular mess; we did. They aren’t responsible for this so how can we hold them responsible? With all the might of the great United States, we don’t seem to have the power to fix it, so how can we expect that, after being factionalized and traumatized by years of savage war, they should?

I do think this is a quagmire and we will need to get out eventually. I don’t want to see more of our soldiers die. But I don’t want to see any more Iraqis die either. Sometimes Americans don’t bother to think about that little detail. Most of them are innocents. Just like most of our soldiers.

Some time ago, I read an article, “America's final mission in Iraq” by Chaim Kaufmann (February 11, 2007) in the Editorial section of the Boston Globe, and posted it as a link on my blog even though I still didn’t know quite what to write about Iraq. So many months later, it’s on my mind. I think it deserves more attention than it got. (Link to the full article under “Sources,” below.)

“At a certain tipping point, it is no longer possible for any authority in either community to muster a constituency determined and strong enough to suppress the ethnic cleansers emanating from their own community. Beyond that point, the war cannot be stopped until the warring communities are substantially separated. It no longer matters how the war started, or even whether most members of both communities actually want to wage an ethnic war. The ethnic cleansing will continue until nearly all mixed urban neighborhoods, towns, and rural districts have become unmixed, as forces representing whichever community is stronger in that locality kills or frightens away most members of the other. The eventual result is a de facto partition.”

”America still has one remaining military mission in Iraq whose completion is essential: refugee protection. Our 160,000 heavily-armed troops are more than enough to protect, transport, and resettle those Iraqis who have not yet become refugees but likely will as the civil war grinds toward completion. We should identify the 150 to 200 towns, villages, and urban districts that are most at risk for ethnic cleansing -- and sit on them until we can organize well-defended transport for those who wish to move.

The United States should do this because it is the right thing to do. Some people who might otherwise die at the hands of death squads will survive if US forces protect them long enough to relocate safely and without becoming desperately impoverished.”

One thing is clear: we need to do something different from what we’re doing. We ought not leave a power vacuum and no protection for ordinary Iraqis from the unbridled ethnic and religious conflict that is likely to occur in it.

We need to think out of the box. We need to accept responsibility for the unspeakable harm we’ve done, beg forgiveness and ask for the world’s help in setting things right. We need to act as a peacekeeping force, as Kaufmann suggests, or get one from countries that have not yet been involved. And we need to provide significant post war economic aid to rebuild what we’ve torn down.

Rebuilding our own tattered reputation may take longer to complete, but it too begins this way.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

On tap: bottled water that’s safe to drink

Water is simple and abundant, but somehow we’ve managed to complicate it. We chlorinate it, fluoridate it, pipe it through copper, lead, steel and PVC. At this point, most tap water tastes so bad and has such a bad rep, many of us have taken to drinking it out of bottles instead. It comes from a spring or is filtered and “purified.” It costs $1.50, $2, $3 or even $4 a bottle, so it must be better than what comes free from the tap, right? Wrong.

First of all, a good deal of what tastes bad isn’t actually bad for you. We need some minerals in our water. Some of the healthiest and longest-lived people in the world drink mineral rich water. Okinawa sits on a coral reef and its population boasts more centenarians per capita than anywhere else in the world.

All those plastic bottles are worse for the environment than your giant SUV. "Forty-seven million gallons of oil are used and 1 billion pounds of CO2 emissions are produced each year to supply America with plastic water bottles"! (Gaiam)

Last, but certainly not least, the bottle itself is bad for your health. Here’s a new truism: you can take the water out of the bottle but you can’t take the bottle out of your water—not after time and temperature have caused the components of the plastic to leach into your drink. Judging from what I’ve read on other blogs, most people think this is rare and only happens when the plastic is compromised by a scratch or is very old (even though you can often taste and smell the plastic in the water). Or they think some types of plastic, usually polycarbonate, are safe even though other plastics may not be. Or they think the government wouldn’t allow unsafe plastics to be used with food and drink. But according to “Hard to Break” in Mother Jones this month (Elizabeth Grossman, September/October 2007), “The Centers for Disease Control has found two compounds—phthalates, used in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic [and many other products including cosmetics], and bisphenol-A, a building block of polycarbonate plastics—in the urine of a majority of Americans tested. Both chemicals… [are] being scrutinized for their potential to mimic and disrupt our hormones—even before we’re born.” This stuff has been linked to birth defects (genital abnormalities), breast and prostate cancer, even obesity and, because of all the plastic in our lives, it’s coursing through our veins! Don’t hold your breath waiting for the government to warn you, it’s more interested in the economic health of major corporations than it is in your health and that of your family.

But I need to carry a bottle of water, you say. I can’t drink tap water, it tastes gross!

There are other alternatives. The ideal is a reverse osmosis filtering system built into your home but this may run you $3,000 or more (if you’ve got the cash, check out the link to Radiant Life in the right hand column). I use a Brita filter but don’t allow the finished water to stand for long periods in the polycarbonate pitcher. You can put it in a glass or stainless pitcher or jar, or just filter it as you use it.

For travel, there are light, slim stainless steel bottles with a choice of caps available from various companies (, www.gaiam .com are two) for a reasonable price. The price is even more reasonable when you consider that you may never have to replace your bottle again. Stainless bottles take dishwasher heat and all sorts of abuse and keep on being inert. Stainless can be filled with acidic beverages, since it is non-reactive. It can be filled with hot beverages safely (though a stainless thermos is recommended for this use). Klean Kanteen even has a smaller size and sippy lids for your toddler.

So the safest, best tasting bottled water is tap water you bottle in stainless steel.

(I don’t recommend Sigg bottles which are made of aluminum on the outside and some unspecified, proprietary lining. Aluminum should never come in contact with food or drink because this can cause heavy metal poisoning. And given that I recently found out I’ve been poisoning myself by drinking out of plastic most of my life, I’m not about to drink out of a secret proprietary lining or anything else unknown.)

According to the Mother Jones article, plastics numbered 3 (PVC), 6 (Polystyrene), and 7 (polycarbonate) should be avoided, while 1, 2, 4, and 5 are ok with food. I go a step farther and try to use none of them with food.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On reinventing the wheel:

The USDA now recommends that people eat whole grains. The same government mandates that refined white flour (and white rice, corn grits, cereal and pasta) be enriched with synthetic B vitamins, folic acid and iron. But why reinvent the wheel? Mother Nature, or God or whoever you credit for this sort of thing, has provided an abundance of foods that meet our needs perfectly. We humans feel it necessary to improve upon perfection. We’ve improved the nutrition right out of flour. And as if that weren’t enough we've improved it even more by adding a “healthy” dose of poison (and some poison for our environment too).

If we did eat whole grains we wouldn’t need “enrichment.” Whole wheat flour, other grains (particularly sprouted ones), legumes and brown rice are loaded with the same B vitamins processors put back in. Well not quite the same. Actually, twenty or more nutrients, including the Bs (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin), "pyridoxine, folate, pantothenate, biotin, vitamin E, calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, chromium, fluorine, molybdenum, and selenium, are lost to the extent of 50 to 90% in the milling process."* Those are the lost nutrients we know about.

One hundred years ago we didn’t know that there were vitamins. It’s widely known that our bodies need to have some nutrients in combination in order to use one or both—vitamin D and calcium, for example. It’s entirely possible that we still don’t know about many of the compounds in our foods and how they act and interact. What we do know—what even the government will admit—is that the real thing is better for us than anything that can be synthesized in a lab.

Furthermore, the process of making synthetic vitamins wastes resources and creates so much pollution that they are no longer produced in the US but in developing countries like China, which have looser environmental laws. (And looser quality controls—witness the recent spate of recalls on Chinese goods.) Not to mention that just refining and whitening flour in the first place involves dangerous and toxic chlorine gas.

The compounds used in fortification themselves are also questionable. The form of iron widely used in flour enrichment is also a very effective weed killer.

In contrast, organic farming and simple home or small mill grinding are sustainable activities. Whole grains require no fortification to prevent beriberi, Korsakoff's disease, pellagra, and anemia. When you eat them, you won’t be eating weed killer, and you’ll be getting, among other things, your daily dose of selenium-- which will help protect you from heart disease, radiation and toxic minerals.

There’s just no improving on perfection.

*A fiftieth anniversary - cereal enrichment -
Nutrition Yesterday: Reminiscences and Reflections,
part III Nutrition Today, Feb, 1992
by W. Henry Sebrell

Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger

Friday, August 17, 2007

On how our stuff owns us:

“I have to work.” I hear that from moms all the time. I say it myself. But is it strictly true?

I am not taking issue with individual moms or families and the choices they make within the societal context. We all do the best we can. I’m taking issue with the context. Somehow, the end result of women’s quest for the freedom to make choices about our lives is that we’re locked in to the two-earner household model which, ironically, leaves us with little choice.

Come to think of it, it’s not just women, but men too. Not only do we work, but we work harder, faster and, enabled by technology, we work during a greater percentage of our time than our parents did. American workers are more productive than ever, but employers still demand more. In fact, many workers demand so much of themselves that leisure time ceases to exist-- carrying PDAs, bringing laptops home for the weekend, answering cell phones at the park or mid-conversation with friends.

Why do we do it? In order to own the things many in the middle class have come to think of as necessities: a home with a bedroom for each child, 2 cars, many of the same electronic devices that allow us/goad us to work more!

My answer is: I love beautiful clothes, to decorate my house like a picture in a magazine, to drive a nice car, to eat out at restaurants and cook with the highest quality food at home. I live in Boston, Massachusetts, which boasts some of the highest home prices in the country.

Call me over-privileged. I am. We are. We have more, and more expensive stuff than our parents ever dreamed of.

It’s possible that we’ve been duped into believing that we need all this stuff in order to fill the coffers of the makers of the stuff and the lenders of the credit that allows us to buy all the stuff we can’t even afford.

I have fantasies of jettisoning most of my stuff, buying a farm, installing solar panels or a windmill, growing my own food and home-schooling my kid. It doesn’t seem like a very realistic view from my current vantage point in our consumer society. But it sure would be liberating to own stuff that allows me to live my life rather than living-- and working-- to own my stuff.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On a real patriot act:

I flew in from DC today. Flying, with its attendant security routines and prohibitions, has become an unwelcome chore for many, but for the most part we put up, shut up and shed our shoes because we want to get there in one piece. Today I’m feeling a little less willing to accept that this is our only option, thanks to a colleague and travelling companion who’s not quite as docile as most—I’ll call him J.

J and I got into the security line behind two women who were elderly and infirm. One was in a wheel chair with a cast on her foot. We waited as a line which had previously moved at a good clip stalled completely, but that wasn’t what raised J’s ire. The woman was made to take off the boot that covered her cast (and, of course, her other shoe), get out of her wheel chair and limp assisted through the metal detector.

Miffed, J announced to me his intention to leave his pancake-thin flip flops on instead of removing them and standing barefoot on the bacteria laden floor where legions of others had done the same. This is my least favorite part of the process and I was interested to see if he’d be allowed to pass. He wasn’t. And to add insult to injury he was reprimanded for bringing a gallon-sized plastic Ziploc bag rather than a quart-sized one even though it was only about ¼ full and all his containers were 3 ounces or fewer. With a smugness born of useless authority, the TSA employee actually provided him with a standard issue quart-sized bag for the next leg of his trip. It was all J could do to remain somewhat polite.

In the relative comfort of an airport eatery—flip flops on—we discussed what had happened. J felt what the elderly woman was put through was cruel and unnecessary. Brainwashed, I defended the stupidity of the policy saying they have to treat everyone the same, otherwise it would be profiling when they subjected people who seemed more likely suspects to more thorough checks. Of course that is true, but it misses the point. J said requiring us all to be subjected to this level of inconvenience and humiliation because of fear means the terrorists have already won. I had to admit he was right-- which is particularly disturbing considering that David Mackett, the president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance, says: "[TSA’s] entire approach to airline security is almost completely ineffective."* They’ve got us jumping through hoops and for what? All that jumping doesn’t even protect us from what we fear. It also begs the question: who is the “they” we really need to fear, the terrorists or the fascists in our government who are using 9/11 as an excuse to gain unchecked power and run roughshod over the bill of rights?

The scariest part of all this for me is that when J got a tone of defiance in his voice while talking to a TSA agent, I wanted to shush him. I wanted him to just go along.

In explaining his position, J referenced the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller, which I recognized because they are engraved on the Holocaust Memorial in Boston:

"First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me -
and by then there was no one left to speak out for me."

We need to speak out-- about the security line at the airport and about the Patriot Act itself. This is a question of our most basic rights. How much are we willing to give up for what is, in reality, a hollow promise of safety? Our shoes? Our dignity? The very freedoms all this security is meant to protect? J shouldn’t just go along, and neither should any American patriot.

*Read the full text of David Mackett's comments at:

Friday, July 27, 2007

On verbalizing nouns:

The English language probably has more words than any other language on earth.* So why is it that, lately, people feel the need to replace perfectly serviceable verbs with nouns masquerading as verbs?

A dictionary is perfect for gifting.

You can keep it on the mantle in your fireplaced living room.

Take it out when you liaise with friends.

Outreach to those who’ve developed the jargon habit.

I’m visioning a future in which we can still understand each other.

A language is a living thing and we can’t expect it to stay static. English needs to grow and develop if it is to maintain the capacity to articulate the changes in our culture and our world. I don’t object to the additions of a new meaning for “mouse” or eight million words with e as a prefix, but I have to object to replacing effective, widely used words like “giving” out of sheer laziness or mistaken self-importance.

If, after reading this post, you are looking back at the title and thinking: “that doesn’t mean what she seems to think it means,” well-- you’re right.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

On little things that mean a lot:

Little things you can do about global warming…

Walk when you can

Ride your bike when you can

Hypermile when you drive (see 6/23/2007 post)

Combine errands to cut down on car trips

Park once at shopping centers and walk between stores


Get a stainless steel water bottle (, www.klean and a filter; filter your own water and carry it in your bottle (stainless doesn’t wear out as fast as plastic and, as a bonus, won’t leach dioxin into your water—47 million gallons of oil are used and 1 billion pounds of CO2 emissions are produced each year to supply America with plastic water bottles!*)

Use tempered glass food storage containers (glass doesn’t wear out as fast as plastic and, as a bonus, won’t leach dioxin into your food)

Buy some cloth grocery bags or reuse plastic bags rather than using new plastic or paper bags every time

Buy post-consumer recycled products

Cloth diaper or use g diapers or eco-disposables with less plastic

Reuse plastic produce and grocery bags for wrapping diapers or as pooper scoopers rather than buying new bags on a roll

Wash zipper bags and reuse (dry them on large serving spoons stuck in the utensil rack of a dish drainer—this will also save you a fair amount of money)

Use non-petroleum based products for cleaning (Seventh Generation, Ecos, Ecover, BioKleen etc. or just baking soda and vinegar)

Save air conditioning for the hottest days or find other ways to keep cool; if you must use it, set your thermostat slightly higher

In winter, set your thermostat slightly lower and wear a sweater

Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (these use up to 75% less energy than with standard incandescent bulbs*)

Shut off lights when you’re aren’t in a room

Shut off computers when not using them

Unplug appliances and chargers when not in use

Get Energy Star appliances

Run dishwasher and washing machine only when full

Install a low flow shower head (saves water and energy that would have been used to heat that water)

Buy local produce, fish and meat – eat only what’s in season here (lots more fuel is used to bring foods from far away)

Read the newspaper and catalog shop on line (ask companies you do business with to stop sending catalogs)

Get on the national Do Not Mail list:

Use the library

Plant a tree


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

On what’s patriotic this July 4th:

I’ve never been what most people think of as patriotic. I’m not much into waving flags or decorating my house red, white & blue for the 4th. But I love my country and what it used to represent. I love that when America is at its best, if there’s a reasonable doubt, the accused isn’t guilty. I love that in the age of technology that can make Big Brother a reality, I have a right to privacy under the law. I love that I get to participate in choosing my leaders and can critique their actions on my blog.

Election results always disappoint some of us. The losers galvanize, reorganize, work to elect their candidates in the next election, secure in the knowledge the system of democracy holds a place open for them if they have the votes.

I’m beginning to think maybe we feel a little too secure. We’ve got rogues in power. Dick Cheney and George Bush have stopped working within the system, playing by the rules. But it seems like we’re still waiting, sure that the next election will offer the opportunity to resolve everything that’s left us unsettled: the signing statements that circumvent the legislative process, the vengeful outing of a CIA agent, the illegal wiretaps, the unlawful holding of detainees, the rendering of detainees for torture, the firing of U.S. Attorneys, the commuting of the fall guy’s sentence. But if we allow them to set the precedent that the person in the position of Vice President is not subject to subpoena, we may never get our democracy back. If we allow the world to think we approve, we may never regain our place in it.

Of crimes against our democracy, they’re guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. This July 4th, the most patriotic thing we can do is impeach the criminals.

Monday, July 2, 2007

On Acquired Stupidity Syndrome (ASS):

Alli, the next big over the counter diet drug, works by preventing the body from absorbing 25% of the fat it takes in. It garnered an article in Newsweek (The Word is ‘Leakage’ by Raina Kelley, Newsweek, June 25, 2007) focused on what most people will consider its major side effect—“anal leakage.” I’m going to predict, like Newsweek, that this messy little problem will encourage a lot of comedians but won’t deter a lot of dieters. Clearly, hope springs eternal when it comes to the quest to eat whatever we want and to be as thin as Lara Flynn Boyle.

And clearly, for many people, something as obviously abnormal as anal leakage is not a red flag that this thing they’re putting in their bodies is bad news. It’s amazing to me that despite an abundance of evidence of the deterioration of our collective health—epidemics of infertility, Crone’s Disease, IBS, GERD, Cancer and heart disease-- how willing Americans are to put in their bodies substances that are, at best, questionable—“foods” that are essentially industrial waste products, poisons like mercury in minute yet real amounts, and drugs that are unnecessary-- simply because of good marketing, experts who are on somebody’s payroll (or just lack a reasonable degree of skepticism), or an abiding wish to be thin (which, let’s face it, is also a result of marketing). I call this Acquired Stupidity Syndrome because I think people choose to believe there’s no problem, despite common sense, because it’s easier to buy processed food than to cook, to take a drug than to eat better, to let “experts” think for them than to think for themselves.

Nutritionists say users of Alli must be sure to take vitamin supplements because the drug decreases the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble minerals and vitamins E, A, D and K. Did anybody hear that???? Fat is necessary! It’s good for you! It’s a whole lot more important for your body to get fat-soluble minerals and vitamins E, A, D and K than it is to weigh a certain amount (and it’s likely that when a person is getting the right balance of nutrients, obesity will be corrected).

Each of these nutrients does many important things in the body. I’ll hit the highlights:

Vitamin E is needed for tissue repair—it retards the aging process;
Vitamin A is an antioxidant—it protects against free radicals and cancer;
Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and therefore for strong bones, teeth and normal growth;
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting, plays an important role in bone formation and prevents bone loss.

Some minerals (fat is needed for the body to absorb all of these):

Sulphur helps protect the body from infection, protects against radiation and pollution and slows the aging process;
Vanadium helps control cholesterol levels in the blood;
Magnesium deficiency can actually cause obesity!

The human body is an enormously complicated organism. It is unhealthy to be fat. It doesn’t necessarily follow that it is unhealthy to eat fat. Has anyone noticed that while the country has been busy decreasing its fat intake, the population has been getting fatter?! Maybe we need to rethink the “fat is bad” idea.

If you are someone with leakage from ASS (or any of its other symptoms) you may want to acquire some sense. Eat reasonable portions and a balanced diet made up of whole, real foods: naturally raised meat, eggs, butter, raw cheese, lacto-fermented foods like yogurt, properly prepared whole grains.* Exercise. Drink some water (that’s not laden with chlorine and fluoride and NOT stored in a plastic bottle) and enjoy the healthy body nature gave you, whatever its shape.

*Use links below to the Weston A. Price Foundation for more information on traditional nutrition.

Sources: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig

Saturday, June 23, 2007

On hypermiling in moderation:

A few months ago, I came across an article in Mother Jones about people who use all sorts of techniques to increase the mileage (and thereby decrease the emissions) of their cars. They’re known as "hypermilers," and the best of them get 50 miles to the gallon in a conventional vehicle and 100 mpg in a hybrid! We were frustrated with the less- than-stellar mileage our new car was getting, so we began employing some of their techniques. We can’t endorse all of them, however, since some are downright dangerous or even impossible in some vehicles.

Moderate Hypermiling Techniques

• Accelerate slowly
• Maintain your speed once you reach it by pressing very lightly on the gas
• Avoid extraneous breaking
• Anticipate lights (Red light ahead? Shift into neutral early enough to roll to a stop.)
• Don’t accelerate to move up when you know you won’t be able to go far; idle up or wait for traffic to start moving before accelerating
• Shift into neutral and Coast downhill (Preserve momentum where possible by avoiding breaking.)
• Don’t run your air conditioning (Sometimes I run it just to cool the car off after it’s been sitting in the sun, or periodically but not continuously.)
• Keep your windows rolled up (Of course, it’s not moderate to do both in summer.)
• Don’t keep a roof rack on when not in use
• In highway driving, do not exceed 60 mph
• Park at the highest point in a parking lot, facing out so you can roll (in neutral) to start; turn your car on only when you run out of momentum
• Avoid traffic (You can turn your car off in stand-still traffic.)

Extreme and Dangerous Hypermiling Techniques

• Overinflating your tires (This compromises your ability to break)
• Driving in the draft of a tractor trailer truck (The driver can’t see you; you may not have time to stop.)
• Turning off engine while coasting (Some cars can’t be controlled under these circumstances.)

We don’t get 50 miles to the gallon, but our mileage has improved significantly. In his Mazda Protégé, my husband got 30 more miles than usual from a tank of gas just by coasting! Our Honda CR-V currently gets 22.5 rather than 18.5 in solid city driving. I’m finding too, that the longer I do it, the better my results. I think you begin to notice the opportunities to coast more, develop a feel for slow, steady acceleration and gain confidence over time. I am much more likely to coast while tracing regular routes than while going somewhere new. There is one .5+ mile stretch near my house that I can travel without touching the accelerator as long as I start with a little momentum. It is also easier to anticipate lights when you know their patterns.

It’s kind of fun too! Hypermiling makes driving an automatic almost as much fun as driving stick.

I hope readers will try some of these techniques. Almost everybody is coming around to the conclusion that we need to burn less fossil fuel (Even George Bush!—sort of). Hybrid cars are expensive. Riding a bike isn’t feasible for everyone. Moderate Hypermiling is something anyone can do to burn and emit less and love the planet more.


Monday, June 4, 2007

On losing the first primary and the last democrats:

That’s democrats with a small “d.” (A brilliant college professor of mine named James Morone used the size of the d to distinguish between citizens of a democracy and members of one of the two major parties in our political system.)

There was an article in the Globe yesterday morning (“Despite Challenges, N.H. Primary Thrives,” by Lisa Wangsness and James W. Pindell, The Boston Globe, June 3, 2007) about the encroachment of other states on New Hampshire’s status as first primary state. So far candidates are still paying attention to NH but they are spending less time than they used to and holding fewer small events. One long-time NH resident was lamenting the loss of intimacy in the campaign this season.

There’s been a lot of talk about how changing the order and density of the early primaries and caucuses will lead to earlier selection of the nominee and big money’s playing an even greater role in that selection. These are certainly real concerns, but there’s a threat that we’ll lose something even greater.

Reading the article yesterday, I was struck by the idea that NH in a presidential election year is one of the last places where old-fashioned democracy can be found. In this day and age when, for most of us, politicians are reduced to sound bites and scandals, NH is a place where they still kiss babies and learn voters’ first names. It’s where the talking heads sit down in someone’s living room and ask ordinary people what they think.

The whole reason other states want to move their primaries up is to try to gain back some of that attention and importance; to ensure that their votes will mean something. Unfortunately, we will probably accomplish the opposite by indulging them.

Instead of undermining the special status that makes real democracy possible in NH for a few months every four years, we need to discover ways to replicate that level of civic engagement elsewhere-- every day of every year.

The link to the Globe article can be found below.

Friday, June 1, 2007

On bullying, Hollywood style:

I hesitate to admit that I’ve watched American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance but if you’re going to comment on social phenomena, you’ve got to keep your finger on the pulse of society. If the number of votes for Taylor Hicks last season-- more votes than any president has received-- is any indication, American Idol has captured a lot of hearts. (I’ve also got a small child, which tends to limit one’s evening activities.)

I can appreciate good singing and dancing. I enjoy watching an amateur’s journey to accomplishment. I think, watching these competitions, we all get excited about the possibility of making that kind of unlikely transformation from our own ordinary selves to someone celebrated by the masses. That’s why the shows draw so many votes.

On the whole, these are feel good shows, so why is it necessary for them to sanction schoolyard bullying in the name of entertainment?

The same possibility that makes the shows fun to watch, brings everyone and his brother out to audition. Sure, some of them have self-esteem that’s greater than their talent. I think that‘s a positive thing. Why do the ultra-rich, ultra-successful judges need to ridicule people they consider pitiful? If it is so obvious when someone has such an egregious lack of talent, why does it need to be mentioned at all? And why are viewers so entranced by the spectacle? It reminds me of the worst of the behavior I witnessed on the playground as a child. It wasn’t fun to watch then and it’s no better now.

I wish I could shrug them off as just a few more stupid TV shows, but what America tunes in to tells a lot about what our values are. For me this talent/humiliation show phenomenon is just another indicator of how uncivil our society has become. Yes, the impulse to raise ourselves up by putting others down has always existed, in just about everybody in some measure, but have we always approved it with 60+ million votes (and millions of advertising dollars)?

I’ve heard parents discussing American Idol as one of the few “safe” choices for family viewing. With weeks of ruthless audition episodes kicking it off each season, is it really safe for anybody?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On why I enjoy paying my taxes:

I was listening to the news yesterday and I heard that the citizens of very wealthy Milton, Massachusetts have declined to pass an override that would increase their taxes in order to balance the town’s school budget. The alternative may be shutting down all sports programs or raising the fee for participation in a sport to over $700! They may have to excess 30-some teachers and make other cuts. But Milton residents so dislike paying taxes that they are willing to allow the quality of public education suffer rather than pay a little more. Maybe some of them think having to pay for shared community services is unfair. Maybe some of them consider paying taxes "throwing money down a hole." Maybe they don’t trust government to spend the money wisely.

People want everything but they don’t want to pay anything for it. They want better public transportation, better roads, cheap gas and cleaner air. They want infallible homeland security, a big bad standing military, and (though many may have changed their minds since) during the last election, a majority apparently wanted to pursue the suicidal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. They want American students to pass high stakes tests, to be well-rounded, to go to college, and to be able to compete in a world market.

In the last few years, conservatives have gotten very good at controlling the language of the debate in the American political arena. Like “liberal,” they have made “taxes” a bad word. But taxes are really good for us all and for our community. Rampant individualism has made us forget about the benefits of living in community even as we continue to receive them-- for now.

I don’t know about you but I want my trash picked up so my neighborhood doesn’t smell like a dump and the streets repaired so I don’t lose a hubcap or break an axle in a pothole. I want good quality free public education for all children because it’s only fair, but also because when we don’t educate all children well, we, as a society, have to deal with the consequences. I even want the government to provide help to people who are struggling to get by, because I know there will always be people who need help. Equal access benefits from the government seem more fair and more effective than relying on individuals to notice people in need and invite them into their homes or churches for a meal, a bath or a place to sleep. I believe these necessities need to be provided on the community level and that they are worth paying for.

As for the argument that government can’t be trusted to spend money wisely... um, this is a democracy and we choose the people who run the government and, through them, what its laws and policies are. Yeah, sometimes elected officials don’t do what we want. There’s a remedy: vote them out! (Actually there are two. If we need to get someone out quick, before he starts World War III, we can impeach him!)

Maybe we should drop the term “taxes” and call them “dues” instead, or a “membership fee.” That’s basically what they are. You want to belong to this club? You want to get the benefits of driving on roads, of public services, of the national defense? Then you have to pay your dues.

Don’t let rich conservative republicans like George Bush (whose real agenda is for themselves and their cronies to make more money and pay fewer taxes) tell you that “taxes” is a four letter word. Taxes are the life’s blood of our society. I’m happy to pay mine to keep its heart pumping.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On God, Jesus and gay marriage:

Most of the opposition to the extension of the basic civil right to marry to all people comes from so-called Christians. I hate to rain on the religious right’s parade, but their stance in these matters isn’t remotely Christian. Not in my interpretation-- and I’m a Christian too.

God made everything. God doesn’t make mistakes so he must have made the boundless diversity of living things on purpose-- including gay people.

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them… (Genesis 1:27 -28) God saw everything he had made and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1: 31)

Though the Bible doesn’t state specifically that God gave people free will, it is widely accepted that he did since Adam and Eve were able to disregard God’s warning about the fruit of the tree of knowledge. There are many credible and persuasive arguments against sexuality being a choice, but even if you believe it is, choice seems to be something God granted humans.

Who are we to judge another human?

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to [Jesus] “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:3 - 11)

If it is the case that gay people are doing something against God’s law, which-- as we have seen-- is not for us to judge, intolerance and punishment through legal limits to their rights are not a Christian response.

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. (Romans 14:10)

Would anyone who is not gay, but who is black or who lives with a disability or whatever other difference, want others in society to make laws that treat him or her differently?

In everything, do to others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12)

What about laws that limit the rights of rich people? In a passage that is apparently subject to the selective amnesia of televangelists, George Bush and others, Jesus says to a man who tells him he has followed all the commandments, “You lack one thing; go and sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)

Christianity was, of course, named for Jesus Christ. I understand that many people who are very excited about their faith wear t-shirts these days that read WWJD?—what would Jesus do? So, what did Jesus do when faced with people who weren’t perfect? Jesus kneeled down and washed sinners’ feet. He cared for lepers no one else would touch. He gave people like the adulterous woman another chance and a choice. No matter how imperfect he believed others to be, he gave them the benefit of the doubt. He didn’t just tolerate them, he didn’t just accept them, he loved them.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13.8 -10)

Should we grant all people in our society the same rights under the law? WWJD?

It is unlikely that the Bible is the unmodified word of God. It was written over centuries by many different authors in 4 different languages. The parts of the Bible as we know it were chosen and “stabilized” in a process of canonization that took place over the course of more than 6 centuries in various cultures and denominations across the world. (Until they were stabilized, the content was “flexible” or changing.) There is no original manuscript. Among the surviving ancient documents there are differences ranging from probable “typos” to substantive differences which change the meaning of passages. Scholars have to make decisions about what was meant by the original authors. And then there is the translation from ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. Words and expressions don’t always translate directly from language to language (hence the expression “lost in translation”). Our understanding of how meanings have changed over time is still developing—therefore every new translation attributes new meanings. There is almost certainly cultural, worldly influence lent by the individuals who put the word on paper, or rewrote or printed it, or included or excluded it from the canon, or translated it. How else can God’s supposed endorsement of slavery be explained? That is only one example of many Biblical ideas we find difficult to reconcile with even a conservative interpretation of our current values. (Essay “The Canons of the Bible”, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV, 2001, page 453)

We can’t know exactly what was meant by the authors of the Bible as we know it never mind what was meant by God himself. I think we can understand the spirit of the book (and therefore the Word), however. The Bible is allegory and parable, meant to teach us broad brush lessons. Is The Boy Who Cried Wolf applicable only to sheep herders? We are looking for the moral of the story, not the details. (What is it they say about the details?) To me the spirit of Jesus’ story is beyond laws or rules or exhortations to sin no more. It’s in the way he treated the sinners. And be assured, we are all sinners. Jesus, Prince of Heaven and Earth, got down on his knees and washed their feet.

Maybe gay people are sinners (why should they be different from anyone else?). That is for God to decide. If we are really Christian, here on Earth, we should do as Jesus did and taught: judge not, treat others as you expect to be treated, love your neighbor as yourself.

Source: The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version, 2001

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On skewering Imus but missing the point:

What Don Imus said is inexcusable and it is probably appropriate that he was fired, if only because access to a national radio audience is not something that should be awarded someone who repeatedly uses the platform to utter rude remarks. (I probably would have said the same thing about Imus even before the “nappy-headed hos” comment.)

Firing Don Imus may allow the media storm to blow over and CBS to find a reliable new source of ad revenue, but the thing is: firing one person doesn’t do much to address our societal problem with race. (Keep in mind, several other “luminaries” have been embroiled similarly in recent memory with no discernible or lasting impact.) Actually I’m not all that surprised by Imus’ behavior. I am more disappointed in the resulting “moral outrage,” which has been a little, um, weak and obligatory. We’re having a knee-jerk P.C. reaction rather than seizing an opportunity to look deeply at our national disease, with intent to cure it once and for all.

I think the things Imus, Michael Richards, Mel Gibson and the others have said are so telling because they slip out despite the expectations that we behave. These are the famous (now infamous), whose every word is listened to by many and/or recorded. How many others “slip” under the radar in insidious ways which, taken together, prevent real equality?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but unlike most of the pundits, I have spent some time thinking about the real problem. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Possible solution: Reparations

I don't know if we as a society are ever going to get over the race thing because I don't think most white people think they do anything to oppress black people or that they have any responsibility in the present because of the past. Despite some talk of reparations, society has never made amends for what it has done to black people. I don’t think most white people really think reparations are owed—witness the way many white people react to affirmative action. But making reparations in tangible form ($) would be the societal analog of the heartfelt apology in a family relationship. It would absolve the oppressors of guilt, while acknowledging the herculean struggle of those who have been oppressed these several hundred years, and helping to reverse the damage in real terms.

Possible Solution: Get to Know Each Other Better

I think deep down many white people think there is a lot of truth to the stereotypes of black people and what's complicated about stereotypes is that that's always the case. But all human beings are complicated and multi-dimensional. Black people have contributed so much to our culture-- and white people show their respect/envy/awe (interesting that the synonyms of awe in my thesaurus are: fear, terror, dread, fright, trepidation, fearfulness) of that in a way by copying, usurping, imitating black people in music etc. a la Elvis Presley right through Emminem-- but there's still no broader respect. It may be the same mentality that allowed masters to beat a slave one day and make babies with her the next... and then beat them too. Call it morbid fascination or (God forbid) jungle fever. What it is really is xenophobia—fear of the other.

What we need is for everybody to really know and care about some people from each of the other groups. Knowing real people with all their complexities makes it easier to see the similarities among us and harder to subscribe to stereotypes. To do this, we need to take down the institutional walls that still divide us from healthcare to red-lining to education to salaries.

Possible Solution: Become Color Blind?

I don't think race, which is not real but a construct so, more accurately, color will ever be something we don't see. And I agree with all that greeting card sentiment about America as tossed salad rather than melting pot. Diversity makes life rich and interesting, why would we want to ignore it? Much harder is to see people as they are and value people who are different from us anyway.

King didn’t say the goal was to be color-blind. He said someday he dreamed we’d see people not for the color of their skin but for the content of their characters. Those women on the Rutgers team have shown who they are: hard-working, talented, accomplished, poised as well as black. Don Imus looked past all that and saw the same old stereotype (or maybe even dredged it up purposely to neutralize strong women who embodied the anti-stereotype). He’s not an aberration. If we keep pretending he is, we will never live King’s dream.

Monday, April 9, 2007

On throwing it all away:

At a time when we are facing what is perhaps the worst crisis in human history--man-made global climate change-- why are we adding more throw away items to the pantheon of consumer products? Do we need disposable everything? Is a little convenience worth the demise of our planet—our only home?

I’m talking about throw-away mop heads, toilet brushes, bibs, food storage containers, dusting cloths, as well as products that increase the amount of cleaning product you use to do a job like cleaning your toilet or shower by automating it. I’ve never tried one of these things but I’ll hazard a wild guess: you probably have to scrub at least occasionally anyway. (Personally I find that good old (cheap old) baking soda and vinegar, along with a little elbow grease, clean just about everything very well and anything else can be dealt with by Citra-Solv or Ecover All Purpose Lemon Cleaner.)

The marketing strategy of cleaning products companies is fairly transparent. Disposable mop heads and toilet brushes mean you need to buy more products from them! Gizmos that continuously and automatically spray or drip chemicals into your toilet or shower are wasting your money as well as our environment.

Disposable diapers and their attendant disposal contraptions may be the worst offenders of all. People think I’m a little crazy because I cloth diaper my son, but it’s really not that difficult. Ask any mother of a baby or small child, she’ll tell you she does laundry (and has close encounters with poop) almost every day anyway. And our diaper bucket barely smells. We don’t individually wrap every paper and plastic-heavy diaper in its own plastic bag or shrink wrap bubble or take the trash out every day because the kaka is where it belongs: in the toilet! (By the way, technically it is illegal to put human waste in the trash. If you don’t believe me, check the small print on a bag of disposable diapers!) The clincher? Cloth diapering will save you approximately $3,000 by the time you potty train each kid! (source:

It’s not just paper or aluminum that counts. Everything that you buy, use, even recycle, puts additional demand on all kinds of resources: trees, water, fossil fuels (which in turn pollute our atmosphere) through not just its manufacture, but its packaging, transport and disposal.

If more people put a little extra thought into their purchases and a little extra elbow grease into their household chores, we might all get to live here on Earth just a little longer.

If you love convenience mops like many of my friends, check out new products with removable, machine washable mopheads by Casabella (available at Linens ‘n Things, Whole Foods and The Container Store), and other brands at and

If I haven't quite convinced you that you want to cloth diaper but you want to do a little better than plastic-heavy diapers and a Diaper Genie there are some good eco disposables out there: Tushies Gel-free are my favorite for traveling, Seventh Generation and Whole Foods are non-chlorine bleached, and new g diapers are semi-reusable. With any diaper, you can knock most of the kaka into the toilet easily saving you from using another layer of plastic to save yourself from the smell.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

On killing our food and killing ourselves:

Why is it that because one or a few cases of e. coli, salmonella or listeria have occurred in a food, we have to either avoid it altogether or cook the hell out of it or mandate pasteurization for everyone all the time?

Many foods are more nutritious and safer in their raw state because they have enzymes that help our bodies use the foods, and beneficial bacteria that actually protect against contamination by dangerous bacteria. These live components and some nutrients are lost during pasteurization. Already, it is almost impossible for people in many parts of this country to gain access to raw milk, one of the only sources of vitamin B6 (which is found only in animal foods and destroyed by heat). Now the government and almond processors have decided to “pasteurize” all almonds starting this fall. These pasteurized almonds may be labeled “raw” so you will not even know whether you are eating the whole food or a processed approximation.

The pro-biotics in whole, unprocessed, living foods support the immune system and prevent disease and infections. “A sterilized diet weakens the immune system, increasing vulnerability to cancer, osteoporosis, asthma, allergies, Crohns, IBS, Colitis, GERD, chronic disease, infections, and ulcers-- to name a few.” (Weston A. Price Foundation Action Alert) Have you noticed, like I have, that these afflictions seem to be more and more common?

Contrary to popular belief, we cannot get everything we need from a pill. We need whole food. The foods in the traditional human diet are designed perfectly to provide everything we need. Then along come processors, who have their own agenda (which is not to worry about your health but to make money). Processors change and denature our food until it becomes burdensome to the body (the body has to draw on its nutrient stores to process refined foods) or poisonous rather than beneficial—witness hydrogenated oils. Or they make into “food” things which are really minerals or synthetic chemicals. In the new book Twinkie, Deconstructed, Steve Ettlinger explores the origins of the 39 ingredients in Twinkies and finds that these American “classics” contain such tempting treats as “food grade” plaster of Paris and ferrous sulfate , an iron compound (used widely to fortify refined flour) that is also used as weed killer.

Nobody should have to worry about deadly pathogens in her food. Most of the outbreaks of food-borne illness are caused by the factory farming or processing of foods, the pathogens are not in the nature of the foods themselves and do not result from traditional production methods. I do not know of any outbreak of e. coli, listeria or salmonella that was associated with organic products or small farm products. If we insist that our food is raised by sustainable, preferably organic, methods, and processed minimally at smaller local facilities, we are unlikely to have this problem.

Yes, this is a litigious society and people want their asses covered. Let them put disclaimers on my raw milk and raw almonds but let me decide whether I want to risk eating them. I would rather take my chances with the food nature provides than with “food grade” plaster of Paris and weed killer.

For more information on probiotics, live foods and analog nutrients needed to process food in the body, link to the Weston A. Price Foundation below. Natren and Radiant Life are resources for supplements.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

On a thinking person’s prerogative:

Why is it so deadly to change your mind in politics? Don’t we want our public figures to have the ability to learn and grow and for their ideas to evolve with that new knowledge?

Bush is very proud of the fact that he never changes his mind, no matter what the evidence that he’s got it all wrong. Is that something we want to encourage? According to conservative pundits and the media John Kerry is a flip-flopper. Is that really the case or is he someone who can see the necessity of taking different tacks when dealing with complex issues, or of playing a little politics to work within our legislative system as it exists? (Legislators are often accused of flip-flopping when their voting records are scrutinized. The reality is, bills often contain various provisions and lawmakers are often forced to compromise and vote for measures they don’t love in order get others passed.)

Yes, there are those politicians who seem to shift positions with the political winds. It does seem disingenuous when they pretend they haven’t changed their minds, but I submit that they may do that because they fear the political backlash against honesty in this regard. John Kerry was honest about how his stance changed regarding Vietnam and they used it against him.

I would like to point out that our representatives are supposed to do just that—represent their constituents. So if one realizes that her constituents feel strongly about a particular issue, she may consider voting accordingly without being branded weak or a liar. I would like to point out that these people we accuse of playing politics, as if it is a crime, are in fact politicians-- so what can we expect? I would like to point out that changing one’s mind is sometimes the mark of an open-minded, thinking person.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On jellyfish and other delicacies:

I went to the New England Aquarium the other day. I thought I was just taking my son to see the fish and the penguins but I got another reminder of our impending doom instead.

Right now there is a special exhibit on jellies, so we checked it out. I’ve never liked running into them at the beach, but they are kinda pretty. Problem is, they are taking over the oceans! Apparently jellies are much better at adapting to global overheating* than fish. Before global temperatures started to rise, fish hatched each year before jellies began reproducing. Now the water warms earlier and the jellies are feeding while the fish are laying eggs and hatching. Jellies eat fish eggs and young as well as the plankton the fish need to survive. Meanwhile people are overfishing, making it that much harder for fish to compete. There was a video in the exhibit showing shrimpers bringing in a net full of jellies with just a sprinkling of shrimp!

My sister and brother- in-law were with us at the aquarium. They are both planetary scientists and they say that global change is already occurring: temperatures are increasing and weather is becoming more erratic. The good news is: we can slow the changes by finding alternatives to fossil fuel use and we need to do so right away. The bad news is: no matter what we do at this point, things will not go back to how they were. At some level, we’ll need to do like the jellies and adapt to climate change. Better learn to love peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches!

*I was at a Move On Political Action movie night in Roslindale, Massachusetts a few months ago to view "An Inconvenient Truth" and the group was discussing climate change. A man whose name I don’t remember said he thought “global warming” was too benign a name for a global crisis of this magnitude. He threw out “global overheating” as an alternative. I agree so I’ve started saying global overheating in hopes it will catch on. In the movie there’s a cartoon about a frog in a pot of water. Apparently, if you put a frog in boiling water, he’ll jump right back out. If, however, you put him in cold water and slowly heat it, he’ll die without ever knowing what hit him. We’re the frog. We need to be shocked into action. We need the language we use to describe this crisis to remind us constantly just how dire it is.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

On civil unions for everyone:

In Turkey, in many ways a more truly secular society than the U.S., marriage is a civil ceremony for everyone. The legal ceremony-- which is very brief and to the point, consists of: the couple stating their intention to be joined legally; the entering of the event into the record books of the municipality with the signatures of the couple, the official and 2 witnesses; and, occasionally, a short speech on the importance of marriage—is carried out by a government official usually at a party that resembles an American wedding reception. Those who wish to have an Imam (or minister or priest) sanction the marriage, seek one out separately. For some people the official ceremony is the “real” wedding and for others the religious one is most important-- that’s up to the couple and their families. The state sidesteps the issue, as it should, by not allowing religious leaders to be vested with powers of the state. Or, more accurately, it preempts it. In a truly secular society, this never becomes an issue in the first place.

That we have such trouble in the U.S. with the separation of church and state is largely an accident of history. Clearly our founders meant us to have a secular state. Because it was born of a more religious state, colonized by Christians, organized in its early days around churches, and made strong through public education that was-- for much of its history-- religious, the U.S. has out of habit, and sometimes political will, taken on certain characteristics of a religious state (In God we trust).

It is not, I would argue, an accident of history that we have a pluralistic society. It is, instead, the nature of America to welcome citizens of all kinds. The assertion of our Declaration of Independence that all (men) are created equal permeates our national self-image. Before there was even a democracy here, pilgrims came seeking freedom. “Give me your tired, your poor, yearning to breathe free,” the statue of liberty beckons. Our Constitution’s dictate of separation of church and state implies that we are open to being a home to people of all faiths.

Our citizens subscribe to many different religions or to no religion at all. They have many different styles of life and, under our Constitution, they are free to choose what they do privately. Even if you don’t believe this is a secular democracy by doctrine, certainly it is one de facto by virtue of our diverse population.

Now some citizens want to ammend our secular Constitution to deny others the right to marry based on religious ideas that aren't common to all. If we want to keep our democracy from flying apart, we need to affirm that it is a secular one. We should take a lesson from Turkey. We should make church and state truly separate by making civil union and religious marriage separate.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

On the National Animal Identification System:

I wrote this letter to my Massachusetts state senator asking her to prevent the establishment of NAIS in Massachusetts. I am posting it here in hopes of spreading the word about the problems with this nascent program. For more information, click on the link to the Weston A. Price Foundation below.

I am a mother and it is very important to me to feed my family whole, local, organic foods. That’s why I am so outraged by the USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and want to prevent its establishment in Massachusetts. I am writing to ask that you support Senate Docket 1472, which would prohibit the establishment of the NAIS in Massachusetts.

Many Massachusetts residents are worried about food-borne illness and may believe that this system will make their food safer. Actually it will do just the opposite.

The food that I choose to feed my family– arguably the highest quality and safest food around– comes from small farms located near the communities they supply. The problem with the NAIS system is that its onerous and expensive tagging and reporting requirements will make it too expensive for small farms to continue raising livestock. This system will drive small farmers out of business and favor giant Midwest, Western and Southern factory farms. This is exactly the wrong direction for U.S.– and especially for this region’s– agriculture to be moving! Huge factory farms and affiliated centralized processors are the cause of the epidemic of livestock diseases, overuse of antibiotics and the recent spate of food-borne illnesses. New England’s farms are generally small farms, using healthier practices and smaller processors. I think you will agree that we need to preserve these vital resources for health reasons and for economic ones as well.

Tagging and registering animals, invading the privacy of farmers and individuals who choose to raise animals for food, and requiring these people to invest large sums to comply will not make animals healthier. Allowing them to eat their natural diet (for example, grass for cows) and raising them in reasonable numbers will. Many of Massachusetts’s small farms already do this. Let’s make sure they can continue their essential work.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On Iran's sovereignty and our hypocrisy:

I know it’s scary: long time enemy, Muslim theocracy, "crazy" people potentially will hold nukes. I hate to say it but it’s only fair. Now before you start freaking out, know that I’m basically a pacifist and I can’t think of many situations in which I’d consider the use of force to be just. Saving people from genocide or slavery maybe. I don’t want any country to hold or, God forbid, use nuclear weapons. But the U.S. can’t say “we can have weapons of mass destruction but you can’t” to a sovereign country, not even when its allies are on its side. Though we act as if it does, being big, strong and rich doesn’t rightly make us the arbiter of all things. The attitude that it does may be what makes some people hate us so much. Actions we take (while pretending to be the arbiters of all things) to keep them powerless make some of them desperate enough to do violence to us and our interests.

Further—and this is key—the U.S. cannot go around attacking and occupying sovereign nations, throwing its weight around with shock and awe, because it suspects they might have weapons that they might use to harm us. That is turning the already specious concept of "just war" on its head. We have to wait until they actually do something to us, (September 11th doesn’t count-- Iraq had no part in it and neither did Iran.) otherwise we become the bad guys.

Thanks to Bush, we don’t hold the moral high ground anymore. We’re not better in terms of human rights anymore-- not even overtly. We can’t claim to have better judgment, or to be sane compared to these crazy Iranians; we have a crazy and belligerent leader too.

What happened to the whole mutually assured destruction defense anyway? (I used to think that was crazy but now it seems pretty good to me.) Even if they build a bomb or a few, we’ve got thousands. Even those crazy Iranians wouldn’t be crazy enough to use theirs against us.

Seriously, is it possible that they are afraid of us? We act like we have no part in proliferation. That it's something some "evil" leaders of "rogue" states are up to. We invented proliferation. We're still the only ones to have dropped the bomb. Maybe we should consider dismantling our weapons so Iran and others don't feel they need to build their own.

Friday, February 2, 2007

On teachers and their critics:

I am so sick of armchair experts passing judgement on teachers. I’m sick of the low pay and little respect accorded teachers in this society. I wouldn’t think of going into a software firm or a nuclear power plant and telling those folks how to do their jobs. But look at the No Child Left Behind law. It is Big Brother for teachers, designed by politicians-- many of whom have no experience in education.

We have to have statewide standardized tests that are so difficult and which are given so much weight that we literally have kids in tears or staying home sick because they can’t deal with the pressure. And we have to teach to these tests rather than just teaching. We have to have standards and schedules and everybody teaching the same material in lock step with no room to utilize the teachable moment or capitalize on kids’ interests and curiosities. We have to have federally-dictated yearly progress goals which are, if the truth is told, random numbers, and because the goals keep increasing no matter how much progress is made, unreachable. We have to have punitive measures for not reaching these goals which include schools being taken over by state bureaucrats (how’s that going to help?). We have to have all this because people do not trust that teachers know how to teach or care enough or work hard enough.

Unlike the armchair experts, teachers are not people who just know about school from having gone themselves or from sending their own kids.

Like experts in any other field, teachers have earned degrees (in Massachusetts most teachers have a Master’s or more) They continually undergo professional development (probably more than in any other field). They know kids because they work with many kids over many years. They know better than any law or policy what is best for their particular kids in a particular year because they spend 5-6 hours a day, for 185 days, teaching them. In general, it is not the teachers who are the problem. The problem is what they are up against.

Not that teaching isn’t rewarding. It is, but it's also just damn hard, and getting harder. A teacher spends most of her time as the lone adult in a room full of kids-- it’s lonely and exhausting. At the elementary level a teacher is standing before her class teaching for about 5 hours a day. Imagine giving a presentation that lasts 5 hours! Imagine doing it every day. Imagine how long it would take to prepare for it.

We are not reading a few paragraphs out of teacher’s manual, mind you. In Boston, where education reform has brought instruction a long way, a teacher is creating reading lessons tailored to small groups of students at the same reading level (she may have 7 or 8 different groups in a class) and based on trade books (a new one everyday in the lower levels) which she has chosen for their fit with students and the teaching point. And that’s just one subject of 5!

I used to work from 5:30 - 6:30 in the morning over breakfast, then get to school at 7 to do more prep, teach from 8:35 until 2:35 (I didn’t usually sit for lunch because I was copying homework or giving extra help or mediating arguments or meting out punishments) continue prepping until they kicked me out of the building at 6, eat dinner then work on responding to journals and grading work from 8 till 11 while trying to watch a little TV. Even my husband got roped in-- he’d help me cut out cards for math or word games and exercises.

There are many more kids with special needs in Boston than the district has funds to provide services for. This means teachers have to serve special needs kids in regular ed. classrooms along with the expected range of levels. In my 2nd grade class I had kids reading at a kindergarten level and kids reading at a 4th grade level and everything in between.

Kids today have more discipline problems. Many have little experience sitting and listening or following rules. Because of the standards, we are asking them to do more sitting and listening when they are younger and younger. This is a recipe for frustration for everybody involved. Kids get turned off of school and teachers struggle to create an environment in which all 23+ children can learn.

Dealing with parents is harder because half of them think you aren’t challenging their kids enough and half of them think you are too hard on their kids. The era when parents respected teachers and parents and teachers presented a united front is over. I’ve had many parents question me in front of their children. I’ve even seen parents swear at principals in front of many children in the hallway or office.

And despite all our passion and caring and hard work, research shows that the school achievement of children is highly correlated with their parents’ wealth and level of school achievement (link to an American Educator article that cites this research below). Much of a child’s education takes place at home. We have read to my son almost every day since he was born. At five months, he would turn the pages of a book– an important behavior teachers note on the road to reading readiness. Some families can’t afford books and don’t have time to go to the library because they work several jobs. Some parents didn’t have a good educational experience themselves or don’t know it’s important to model reading. Kids from these homes may come to school at 5, never having seen a book. They may be average or even above-average kids and they will learn, but they start 5 years behind some others. No matter how good the teaching methods, they may not meet the standards at the same time others do.

Bush and his brethren (armchair educators all-- except maybe Laura Bush) talk about how important it is to attract high quality people to teaching. As if the people already in teaching aren’t the salt of the earth. I’m here to tell you that the bigger problem is retention. By pretty much any measure, I am one of those high quality, highly educated, capable people who could do something else and make plenty money and I chose teaching. I taught for 5 very rewarding but very draining years. I’ve left because I find it to be a nearly impossible, thankless and maddening job. I need some time to myself, I need some peace, I need some energy left to raise my own kid and I need to feel like someone appreciates all my hard work and my and my students’ little victories. Not all my students met all the standards– maybe not even most– but they all made progress.

I’m not the only smart young person who has lasted only 5 years– it’s an epidemic. We don’t need to use tests to prove our teachers are failing and then punish them, we need to support teachers and students to start from where they are and grow.

Here’s what we should do:

1.) Use innovative professional development to support our teachers in their never ending quest to do better

2.) Continue to innovate in instruction

3.) Allow and encourage teachers to capitalize on kids’ interests and curiosities. We need standards but every classroom shouldn’t be exactly the same because all kids are not exactly the same.

4.) Offer parents more guidance in child rearing from the time their kids are young

5.) Decrease class size to about 15 or put a second teacher or smart, well-educated paraprofessional in every room

6.) Increase parent and community participation in schools

7.) Increase special ed services to meet the need

8.) Stop teaching to the test– it is not education If the test doesn’t measure kids’ progress in what we are teaching day to day, then it is the wrong test. One test is not an accurate indicator of how kids or teachers are doing. We need various ways of assessing, including formative assessments (basically work that students are already doing which the teacher is using formally to determine their levels of achievement) and observations of classrooms.

9.) Show teachers some respect with better pay and a more professional work environment (if we need to raise taxes it will be worth the investment; this is our future, after all)

10.) Phase in new curricula and tests. It’s not fair to institute, as Boston did, a totally new math curriculum system-wide when students are in 9th grade and then require those same students to pass the high stakes test aligned with the new curriculum before they graduate high school. The requirement should begin with the students who had the new curriculum from kindergarten.

source: "...How to Make AYP Work...", American Educator Magazine

Thursday, February 1, 2007

On driving in an uncivil society:

Every time you get in your car, you take your life in your hands. Not because of all the giant SUVs on the road-- well at least that’s not the primary reason. It’s because people either don’t remember what the driver’s manual says or they just don’t care to follow the rules. In Boston, at least, we are literally at the point of automotive anarchy. It is so common for people to run red lights in this town, that I don’t think the police even notice anymore. I have had to develop the habit of pausing to look both ways before I proceed into an intersection when I’ve got the green light. When I stop during a yellow because I know it is about to turn red, the guy behind me honks and makes gestures in my rearview mirror. (As if it’s not bad enough having a toddler in the backseat incessantly saying, “Mama go?”)

The yield sign has similarly lost all meaning. I was on Memorial Drive the other day and a guy merging on almost hit me. He seemed to expect me to slow down for him. I beeped and gave him a dirty look but I’m sure it was lost on him since he apparently didn’t know he was supposed to yield to me! I yielded getting onto the Jamaicaway recently (like the sign said) and the woman behind me was so busy not yielding that she actually hit me!

One place you can be pretty sure people around here aren’t going to yield is when they’re entering a rotary. But-- oh yeah!-- that’s the law! I think they think there’s no light so they shouldn’t have to stop. Or maybe they know vehicles on the rotary have the right of way, but they figure if they’re aggressive enough, people on the circle will give way and they’ll get where they’re going 30 seconds sooner. Or maybe they’re all from Turkey where the law is that people on the rotary have to yield. In Turkey they have an apt expression which translates loosely as: “How’d you wait in your mother’s belly for nine months?” You’d think they have heard it.

Another area of great confusion is the right on red. You can do this only when there is no sign prohibiting it and only after stopping first. But be prepared, because if you do stop first, a chorus of horns will erupt, egging you on. And those intersections with a separate lane and light for the right? Sorry, no right on red at all. Brookline– the strict traffic rules capital of Massachusetts– has signs that explicitly state both of these laws but I still see people breaking them all the time.

And how about the ubiquitous practice of pulling out onto the road even though there is traffic in the lane you want to enter? You don't want to wait for both lanes to clear, so you sit there in the middle of the road, blocking traffic in the other lane and all those people have to wait. Likewise pulling into an intersection when you aren’t sure you can get through it by the time the light changes just creates gridlock. It’s inconsiderate. It breaks the rules of the road, and it makes other people mad and impatient and more willing to break the rules...

I know what this is all about Bostonians and I feel your pain. I know it’s hard to get anywhere fast in this city, but society creates these rules for a reason: for safety and to ease the flow of traffic. Disregarding them will only lead to– has led to– chaos, accidents, gridlock and road rage.

We could all stand to review the Massachusetts Driver's Manual periodically. To do it now, click on the link below.

Mass. Driver's Manual, Chapter 4 (Signs)