Grab Your Growler: Four Things We Don’t want to Know about Recycling

In 1984 the local garbage hauler launched curbside pick-up of recyclables in our town. We were issued a small blue box for glass, big blue bin for co-mingled recyclables, gray bin for yard waste, green bin for garbage. It’s a good feeling to get everything all sorted out.

How are we doing? Official statistics look good. In 1992, 9 million pounds of material was “repurposed.” This past year, 62 million pounds. Yeah!

Wait. What does “repurposed” mean?


Saint Lucia and her gouged out eyes. Sometimes I’d rather not see, either. Photo: wikicommons

1. Glass: The machines which sort glass are expensive. Our town doesn’t have one.  Best case: glass is crushed and used as drainage material or for roads. Usually it goes to the dump.

2. Plastic:  Most is sent to China for recycling. Last year China announced a new Green Fence policy, and stopped taking all but the cleanest, tidiest bales of plastic, and only certain types.  If it there is a number 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 on the bottom of a container, China won’t take it, so it’s probably getting dumped in a landfill.

3. Cardboard: Has to be clean.  Greasy pizza boxes with cheese stuck on them? To the dump.


Not to diss the pie chart, or the efforts, but what this shows is a lot of stuff not recovered. Source: The Portland Mercury, “Oregon Knows Its Garbage”

4. Block styrofoam.  This has never been picked up curbside, but for awhile there were places willing to take it. Not now. Everybody’s storage spaces are full of the stuff.

Luckily, several local breweries offer a waste-free option to drown our sorrows with while we contemplate next moves.


Beer jug, refillable at local breweries.

How goes the recycling efforts in your town?  Time to lose ourselves in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch?

Veterans Need a New Day

Ninety five years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Germany signed a treaty with the Allies to mark the end of World War I. There were over 37 million casualties.

The Armistice marked hardly more than a pause for breath. Soon after, Japan invaded China, Germany invaded Poland, France and the United Kingdom. Italy teamed up with Germany, conflict spread to Africa and the Soviet Union and Pearl Harbor, and on it went. We’re masters of self-inflicted misery, more like fire ants than the rational beings we’d like to think ourselves. Put up your dukes.

November 11th: remember the War to End All Wars and try to keep a straight face.

Veterans deserve a day of their own. If we don’t want to clutter the calendar with more federal holidays, there’s a good candidate coming up. The ode to pilgrims is getting stale.

Let’s save the moments of silence for the day when we’re feasting with our families. Let’s leave flowers on the graves when it’s darker and colder, use Thanksgiving to thank the soldiers who served and continue to serve, and November 11 to remember the folly of fooling ourselves that wars end war.

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Your Spam is Junk. Five tips for using the new Apple iOS.


No worms in this Apple

Go ahead. Don’t be afraid. Download that new operating system for your iPhone. Experts galore are online, ready to help.  For most of us non-techies, the difference is mostly cosmetic, but the system does seem to work a tad faster, and has some cool/grotesque (depending on your taste) graphics.  Warning: BACK UP your iPhone via iCloud or iTunes first!  Here’s how:

Five things that might stump you:

1. In G-mail, the spam option disappeared.  The new word for spam is “junk.” That seems appropriate.


Now, officially JUNK

2. After the update, I had trouble editing notes.  Instead of getting the familiar keyboard pop-up and magnifying glass editor, I only got the cut and paste options.  The trick? Do not hold your finger on the screen for longer than a millisecond.  The lightest tap brings up the keyboard.


Only need a light tap to bring this up

3. Your battery might run out of juice faster than it used to, even if you turn off or delete some of the apps you don’t use.  Here are a couple of new battery gobbling iOS features that you might want to turn on only occasionally, or maybe even live without.

  • AirDrop. This lets you transfer things quickly between Apple devices.  It’s not something I’ll use very often.  To turn off, go to the home screen, open the Control screen by sliding your finger from the bottom to top on your phone. You’ll get an image like this:


       The “AirDrop” icon is in the lower third of the screen. Tap to turn on or off.

  • Parallax gives a 3 dimensional look to things on the screen. It is kind of cool, but makes some people carsick. If you’d rather extend the life of your battery, go to Settings > General > Accessibility, and > switch Reduce Motion to “On.”


4. Calendar. Having trouble making sense of the new one? I missed the old “list” feature, which allowed scrolling quickly through events scheduled, day by day. It’s still there!  Tap the magnifying glass in the upper right corner to activate it.  Note also that by tapping the year in the upper left corner, you get the entire calendar for the year.  Tap again, and you return to the current month.


See the magnifiying glass in the upper right corner? Tap to get a list of events.

5. In case you decide to do some housekeeping by updating your Apple I.D. from the old e-mail address you used in college to the one you’ve been using for the last 10 years — you’ll discover that editing I.D. via iTunes doesn’t automatically sync everything else, which means that you won’t be able to sign on to see the New York Times, or download app updates, or anything else that requires signing in.

Ignore all the advice floating around about signing into the old e-mail again, and going back and forth with verifications and all the rest.  The fix is simple:  on your phone, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store > Tap on your Apple I.D. which will be highlighted in blue > tap on Sign Out > Sign in again with your new I.D.


Voila!  What tricks have you found to save me hours of frustration?

We Need a (better) Sign!

To the Traffic Sign Wizards in Eugene: We’re still waiting…


Spot the “bicycle crossing” signs:

Sign #1:


See it? The orange one. Bicycle crossing. But where?  

Sign #2:


The crossing is here. See the sign? Hint: it’s green, on a gray signpost, after the big tree. Directly across the street is a mid-block curb cutout.

Curb cutout for bicyclists:


Would you be on the lookout for bicycles crossing here?

Time for the annual appeal to the city Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and the Assistant Traffic Engineer to beg for better signage on this bicycle route. Join me! It just takes a few clicks. Here’s a link to the City of Eugene’s Transportation Department web page, with e-mail links for bicycle and transportation coordinators:

Previous appeals:

Six Things You Need for Your Trip to China


1. Visa. If you live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C., not a problem.  Go to the Chinese Embassy and get one.  If you don’t, here’s the deal:  the rules require someone to physically walk into a Chinese embassy.  It doesn’t have to be you.  We used a travel agent, but many Americans use an agency like My China Visa.   Allow three weeks, start to finish. Yes, it is nerve-wracking to send your passport and hard earned cash off to an agency that might or might not be reputable. Check out agency reviews and comparison shop first! As of this writing, the cost was about $225 for agent fees, shipping and consular fees. Expedited applications cost extra.  For specifics see the Chinese Embassy website. Note: proofread your application carefully, and fill EVERYTHING in, including hotel reservations, with confirmations from the hotels.  

2. Practice squatting.


P.S. Handrails aren’t a given

3. Practice using chopsticks. Don’t worry about tidiness. Bring that noodle bowl up to your face and slurp those babies up.


Chopsticks before lunch, Beijing


Chopsticks after lunch

4. A guide – human or electronic.  Few people on the street speak English, and Chinese cities are not great places to wander around in, hoping for a find.  There are finds every 10 feet, but you’ll miss them without help. Five years ago, you probably needed a human guide, period, and if you are traveling outside the major cities, you still need one. China is westernizing rapidly, however. Many street signs in the large cities have English letters as well as Chinese characters, and if you have an iPhone, and an international data plan, you can get around nicely on your own.  In nine days, we used about $30 of data and GPS’d our way around Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Trip Advisor has a free app with downloadable maps of all three cities, and walking routes that are frequently updated by users. Warning: this works best with two of you, one to navigate using the phone, and one to watch where you’re going. (Coming soon: a future post on safely using personal electronics when visiting China.)


Many signs are in English or use English letters

5. If you can, spring for a comfortable hotel.  After a day wandering the streets, which can be crowded and dusty, it’s really, really nice to have a retreat, and China offers some spectacular options.


Swimming pool, Opposite House Hotel, Beijing

6. Friends.  Nothing beats help from an insider.  Look up old acquaintances or friends of friends and offer to take them out for a meal or tea in exchange for tips on using public transit, getting to a uncrowded spot on the Great Wall, a back street tour or restaurant that you’d otherwise miss.


Our friend Myra hamming it up at a Hong Kong street cafe we never would have attempted on our own.

I arrived in China ready for deprivation and difficulties, but instead, had one wondrous adventure after another.  This is a country on the move, full of ambition, change and contagious energy.  Prepare well, ahead of time, and then be ready to let go and have fun.


Full moon over Shanghai

Democracy at work: Score One for the Seed Farmers

Canola ban clears Legislature


I’m flag waving today because round 1 in the Willamette Valley canola battle went to the specialty seed farmers, a group that consists largely of smaller-scale operations.  Grass roots politics work!

Canola is an all right crop — just don’t bring it here. Businesses from all over the world order Willamette valley seeds, many varieties of which are organic. Canola was banned in a 3.6 million acre portion of the valley because it cross-breeds with other plants in the same genus (mustard, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale and more),  and is susceptible to, and spreads, disease and pests.  Also, 95% of it is genetically modified, although this wasn’t part of the official fight against it.  The other problems were enough.

I wrote earlier (Rapeseed, Gas vs. Grass) about an underhanded attempt by the Oregon Farm Bureau (good friends of Dow Chemical, Syngenta and Monsanto) and the Department of Agriculture to pass an under-the-wire “temporary exception” to the ban on canola.  Temporary, of course, would haven meant an opportunity for canola to spread and become permanent.

Thanks to farmers who showed up for hearings, organizations like the Friends of Family Farmers who spread the word, and volunteers who wrote to legislators and attended rallies, the Oregon State Legislature just banned canola in the valley until 2019, and allocated money to study the effects of canola on other crops.

A sweet victory for Oregon seed farmers, and for those of us who fear we can’t make a difference. We can.

Rape Seed II: Ready for RoundUp?

IMG_1586At last report, the Oregon Department of Agriculture was accepting comments on whether to allow canola, a.k.a. rapeseed, in the 3.7 million acre protected agricultural zone in the Willamette valley.

Canola can legally be grown in much of the state, but the protected zone is home to a $50 million/year specialty seed industry, and genetic purity drives the business.  Canola cross-pollinates with other crops, spreads easily and is notorious for transmitting disease and pests, so it’s a problem here. Also, although you won’t find this mentioned in official reporting, 95% percent of canola is genetically modified.  In Oregon, the Department of Agriculture doesn’t distinguish between GM and natural canola, hence no official discussion of  the matter, but the truth is, once Round-up Ready canola mixes with other brassica, it is darn near impossible to get rid of it.

Last fall the Oregon Department of Agriculture issued a quiet, some say sneaky, ruling (at 5 p.m. on a Friday night) allowing a temporary exception to the ban on canola, so farmers can grow it as a rotation crop and, with state and federal energy tax credits, to  press as an oil for fuel. Seed growers feared, with good reason, that temporarily admitting canola would mean a de facto end to international demand for organic cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, mustards, kohlrabi and other brassica seed crops.

At a public hearing in September, 99% of the speakers, including biologists from Oregon State University, opposed allowing canola in the valley. Funny thing — while representatives from the big GM seed companies didn’t testify at the hearing, it’s hard to imagine a few weren’t around for the annual Farm Bureau Classic, a golf tournament sponsored by Monsanto, DOW and Syngenta, which was held the day before.


Photo courtesy of Oregon Farm Bureau via Facebook

The Department of Agriculture issued a ruling allowing canola into part of the protected area. Undeterred, specialty seed crop farmers, biologists and activists kept the pressure on, and this week the Oregon House, rebuffed the Department of Agriculture and passed HB 2427, which would prohibit canola in the valley until 2019, and provide money to Oregon State University to study the risks of cross-pollination and disease.  It now moves to the Senate. If this is an issue you care about, contact your (or an) Oregon State Senator, a.s.a.p! Here’s how.  For more information: see Friends of Family Farmers, and The online research magazine for the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station

Material Support — Not For the Likes of Me

The other day friends and I were having lunch, when we got into a lively and heated discussion about state budgets, public pension funding and unions. Afterwards, we hugged and one friend said, “I’m glad we live in a country where we can talk about what we believe and nobody will throw us in jail!”

That’s probably true for us, white, flag-waving, not very political women with Protestant-sounding names.

What if your views don’t line up with the State Department’s?


Sami Al-Airan. U of Florida professor and American citizen arrested in 2003, accused of material support of terrorists. He spent 28 months in solitary confinement, before he was tried before a grand jury, which acquitted him on the serious charges, and deadlocked on the minor charges. Al-Arian is still under house arrest and in legal limbo. Ironically, he campaigned for G.W. Bush in 2000 because of Bush’s opposition to the use of secret evidence. Image source.


Jess Sundin. Anti-war activist and advocate for workers and civil rights in Columbia, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Her home was one of 9 in Minnesota and Chicago targeted in simultaneous raids in 2010. FBI agents searched her house in front of her 6 year old daughter, carted away “truckloads” of personal belongings. Sundin and the others subject to the raids refused to testify before a grand jury.  Image source

In 2010, in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law, the Supreme Court for the first time, ruled that free speech in the form of any kind of advocacy for a black-listed group, is a crime; that is, it is against the law to provide “material support” to any group that the State Department designates a terrorist organization. Material support includes humanitarian aid, advice, “services,” “political advocacy,” and “coordination.”  Suspected violators are subject to raids on their homes, “special administrative measures” which is a nice way of saying solitary confinement for indefinite periods of time without trial, time in a “super-max” prison or a notorious “communications management unit,” facilities designed to isolate  violent criminals.

Don’t worry if you’re a judge, T.V. commentator, wealthy businessman, former mayor of New York, former governor of New Jersey or former White House advisor. The rule doesn’t to apply to you.


Rudy Guiliani, just to the left Maryam Rajavi, the woman in yellow. And look! John Bolton, 3rd to her right. This was taken at a rally to support the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group the State Department designates a terrorist organization. Politicians, judges, scholars and TV commentators have accepted speaking fees from the group. Indictments and early morning raids forthcoming? Don’t bet on it. Image source.

If, however, you are an ordinary person who supports workers in Columbia, if you’re a Muslim, or if you send money to a Palestinian aid group, or speak out against wars in the Middle East, or publicly oppose NSA surveillance of your phone calls and e-mails, beware.

Here’s the story of former NSA computer program designer William Binney, when he  raised his head a little too far in protest of NSA surveillance.  

Baggy Baggy

“I hate to tell you this,” the clerk says as she folds my new pants.  “But I’m required to. By law. I have to charge you five cents for a bag. Would you still like a bag?”  She raises her eyebrows in an ominous and foreboding way.

Our bag ban (see post) went into effect last month.  Plastic grocery bags are outlawed and stores are required to charge a nickel for paper bags.

Bellyaching abounds.  A woman buying groceries ahead of me in line, who looks like she probably has a few nickels to spare, commiserates with the checkout lady about the usurious bag fee. They roll their eyes, sigh and shake their heads.

One letter to the editor complains that cloth bags are bacteria laden. Isn’t everything bacteria laden? Never mind. Another letter writer wonders how he’ll line his trash can.


Newspaper and rubber bands. Or skip the lining. That works, too. Uh-oh. Is that bacteria on the outside?

There are complaints about the five cents, it’s not the nickel, it’s the principle of the thing. It better be about principles, since nickels are worth so little we can barely afford to make them. What else can you even get for a nickel these days?


Go ahead. Ask how much Hallmark charged me for this bag.

One man writes that from now on, he is going to shop in the neighboring town. So there.

I think people are secretly happy about the bag ban. It gives us something to talk about besides the weather. So much simpler and more accessible than crazy stuff like teacher layoffs and global warming.  Here is the crux of the national debates in our own little town, something we can really wrap our tomatoes in.

Good work bag monsters.


Image Source: Check out Ban the Bag Facebook page


What screws us up most

     in life is the picture in our

     head of how it is suppose

     to be 

Unknown-1Pink ribbon alert and a few quiet moments to send love and support to Susie Lindau today, as she faces down one of life’s biggest challenges. Many know Susie, virtually speaking, from her ‘Use Me and Abuse Me’ parties, where she invites bloggers to drop in, leave a link, and check out other guest links. Hundreds attend. She visits every guest’s blog, and answers every comment, always with encouragement and good cheer.

When Susie is not blogging, dancing, skiing, hiking, running or taking photographs, she’s out doing something for someone — supporting family and friends, writing, making art, cracking jokes, swimming (in a river, mid-winter) to raise money for disabled kids.  About the dancing?  Susie dances every chance she gets: on New Years at midnight, at the Polar Bear Swim, alone with her dog, with friends at parties. She rain dances, snow dances, blog dances.  It is contagious. Watch a video or two of Susie dancing and before you know it, you’re shimmying too.

With her usual energy, honesty and, yes, good humor, Susie recently let friends and followers know she has a rare and aggressive breast cancer, and will undergo a double mastectomy. Surgery is scheduled for today.  A life long proponent of healthy living and eating, she is courageously writing about her experience. 

Susie —  Sending blue skies and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

To read Susie’s blog and follow her story: Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride