30 July 2008

Airline Surcharges

The New York Times reports that Delta has doubled, to $50, the fee it charges passengers who check a second bag when flying.

Not only that, but the second cousin of the daughter of one of Delta's financial officers has revealed that the company has considered weighing all passengers, measuring them, and testing them with bioelectric impedance analysis. The company is reportedly considering requiring those who exceed the recommended weight ranges developed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company or who have a Body Mass Index higher than 25 to pay an excess fuel surcharge.

Asked if the underweight or small children would be allowed a low weight rebate, the source abruptly terminated the interview.

29 July 2008

Eating Mud in Haiti

Haitians are eating mud cakes because they can't afford food. More here from the Guardian. If you're reading this, write to your elected officials and urge them to find a way to help.

27 July 2008

Where are the Menopause Bloggers?

There are a couple out there: mymenopauseblog, menopause the blog. Plus some web sites about menopause and a good section on menopause on the web version of the book Our Bodies, Our Selves. The National Women's Health Network is advocating for changes in cultural and medical attitudes toward menopause.

Let me know if you know of anything else I should check out. I suppose it will come in due time: if the mom bloggers are still out there in 15 or 20 years, they're likely to comment in collectively minute detail on The Change.

Meanwhile ... okay, I've gained a few pounds. Maybe half a size. But my skin? Gained a size and a half. How did it get so baggy while my clothes got tighter?

When did my eyes decide they couldn't read a restaurant menu without help?

Night sweats: grrrr.

26 July 2008

Incongruities on the A Train

Three women.
"McCain went to a German restaurant in Ohio. He's complaining because Obama is in Germany."
"He was just there. What does he think, we're stupid?
"You know who thinks we're stupid? Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney thinks we're stupid.
A woman walks by in ... a dress. It's shorter than anything I'd wear, but she's younger, too.
"Who does she think she is, Carrie Bradshaw?"

Three young men, working Rubik's Cubes. One completes one side, and tries to show it to his buddy, but the other guy is so engrossed, he can't get his attention.

Woman with highlights, understated make-up, Coach handbag, Tiffany shopping bag, and a tattoo of barbed wire around her right shin.

Young man. Rise of the jeans is engineered to ride so low, they look to me like harem pants. A thought that would no doubt horrify him if he heard me think it.

24 July 2008

The Great Outdoors

The other day in Hell's Kitchen, I passed a place advertising work-outs and tanning treatments.

The incidence of skin cancer crept up between 1973 and 2004 in men aged 15 to 39, according to the New York Times. In women during the same period, the incidence nearly tripled, from 5.5 to 13.9 per 100,000. The authors of the study reporting the increase note that during the same period, use of tanning beds has increased much more among girls and women than among their male cohorts.

I'm going to go out for a run and get my tan the old way.

23 July 2008

Two Small Things

1. I'm using the back of used paper to print drafts. Haven't done that since I was broke and in grad school. Started because I was out of new paper, will continue because it just makes sense.

2. We're trying to wean ourselves off the dryer. In the last apartment, we had a small combination washer/dryer. The dryer was so inefficient we just hung everything to dry. And since the loads were small, we were never inundated with wet laundry.

Now, we do laundry in the basement of our building, five flights away. It's hard enough to carry it dry. But The Mate has agreed to haul up part of the load wet, provided that I do the hanging. I might offer to help haul, to further reduce reliance on the dryer.

22 July 2008

Do The Hardest Thing First

Franke James of North York, a subdivision of Toronto, decided to "do the hardest thing first" by selling the family SUV and going car-free. Read more on her hand-written, illustrated blog My Green Conscience.

What would be the hardest thing to get rid of for me? For you?

21 July 2008

Summer in Times Square

Bought by Disney? Check.
Filled with euro-toting tourists? Check.
Smells like piss and garbage? Check.

Some things, money can't buy.

19 July 2008

Gloria Steinem T Shirt

Me: I don't get why people wear t shirts with other people's names on them.

The Mate: Wouldn't you wear a shirt with "Gloria Steinem" on it?

Me: Hmmmm....

It turns out you can get a shirt that says "I Love [heart] Gloria Steinem." You can also get a sweatshirt with Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Hughes stencilled on it. It appears, however, that you can't get a Gloria Steinem Barbie. Thank goodness for the little things.

18 July 2008

Wind Farm

One of the criticisms levied at wind farms, where you put up a whole bunch of windmills (or wind turbines, in the new terminology) to generate electricity, is the potential for a lot of noise. So when I was driving across Kansas with my parents a few weeks ago and saw a wind farm on the horizon, I wanted to stop and take a listen. My parents, old lefties and environmentalists from way back, were game, so when the highway passed the nearest turbine, we pulled onto the shoulder and got out of the car.

We couldn't hear anything.

So we climbed the embankment to get closer. Eventually we reached the fence and, standing maybe 100 paces from the nearest turbine, we listened. Only when there were no cars or trucks passing on the highway 25 feet below could we actually hear anything; then, it sounded about as loud as a refrigerator.

I know there are other criticisms, too. For one thing, birds -- especially big ones -- get hung up in the blades of the turbines. But then again, burning coal or oil for electricity doesn't do the bird population, or any other populations, a whole lot of good either.

People say they're ugly, too. I guess it's a matter of taste; I thought the wind farm we saw in Kansas was rather beautiful, and the slow movement of the individual blades was soothing and a bit mesmerising (I was driving: I had to fight that part of it).

Interestingly enough, all across Kansas, single old-style windmills are still in use providing energy to get water out of wells and other localized applications.

17 July 2008

How To Save The World

Treehugger reports that David MacKay of the Cambridge University physics department has identified what he considers the eight most important things to do to reduce power consumption. He's written about this in detail in his book Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, available for free download here.

Here are MacKay's Eight:

1. Put on a woollen sweater and turn down your heating’s thermostat (to 69 or 72 degrees, say). Put individual thermostats on all radiators. Make sure the heating’s off when no-one’s at home. Do the same at work.
Could save: 20 kWh per day

2. Read all your meters (gas, electricity, water) every week, and identify easy changes to reduce consumption (e.g., switching things off). Compare competitively with a friend. Read the meters at your place of work too, creating a perpetual live energy audit.
Could save: 4 kWh per day

3. Stop flying.
Could save: 35 kWh per day

4. Drive less, drive slower, drive more gently, use an electric car, join a car club, cycle, walk, use trains and buses.
Could save: 20 kWh per day

5. Keep using old gadgets (e.g. computers); don’t replace them early.
Could save: 4 kWh per day

6. Change lights to fluorescent or LED.
Could save: 4 kWh per day

7. Don’t buy clutter. Avoid packaging.
Could save: 20 kWh per day

8. Eat vegetarian, six days out of seven.
Could save: 10 kWh per day

Treehugger's report on this estimates that besides all the kilowatt hours saved, this could save you more than $7000 a year.

Now, if I could just stop blogging and shut off my computer, I could save even more energy.

Another Plug for Urban Organic

... over at my other blog, Ecological Shopper.

16 July 2008

Reduce your Paper Footprint

Some tips from The Independent by way of Treehugger:
* Do not pick up paper napkins in cafés.
* Ask yourself: do I need to print this? If so, use both sides of the paper.
* Sign up to the Mail Preference Service: www.mpsonline.org.uk
* Make sure any paper you buy (toilet rolls through to writing paper) comes from recycled sources.
* Re-use paper bags or compost receipts and torn-up bank statements
* Cut down on and share magazines, return unwanted catalogues to the sender.
* Re-use envelopes and make your own cards.
* Read small print carefully and never tick the "more information" box.
* Ask your boss to buy recycled paper for your workplace.

To cut down on junk mail in the US, you can sign up here. (More on this, here.)

15 July 2008

Old Television, New Digital, and the Landfill

Congress has required that broadcasters switch to digital television beginning in February, 2009. More here from The New York Times.

Your television might already be capable of recieving a digital signal, especially if you bought it after May, 2007. If not, you can buy a converter box, and Congress says you're entitled to two vouchers worth $40 each to help pay for the purchase. The Federal Communcations Commission will tell you more about the advantages of the conversion, here.

But a lot of old televisions are going to end up in the garbage. According to CoopAmerica, "a cathode ray tube television can contain eight pounds of lead, as well as mercury, PVCs, and hundreds of other toxic chemicals." If the televisions are put in landfills, these chemicals are likely to end up in your drinking water. (For more on that, see Elizabeth Royte's Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It.)

CoopAmerica wants the FCC to mandate that the manufacturers that sell you your new television capable of recieving the digital signal will take your old television and recycle it responsibly. For more information, and to sign on to a letter to the FCC, click here.

13 July 2008

Foundation Problem Solved: Running Again

I've always had a problem with bounce; I used to solve it by pulling a stretchy sport bra over an underwire sport bra. Nine months of pregnancy, thirteen months of nursing, and five unshakeable extra pounds later, the extra, ahem: volume meant that didn't work any more.

Enter the Frog Bra from Title Nine. I've been eyeing it for years in the catalogue, but didn't want to buy it unseen and untested. Finally I took the plunge, guessed on the size, and ordered one.

The catalogue claims "no bouncing ever" and adds "'It's almost like not having breasts at all. Well almost.' Warning: major masher bra." It's all true, and it's also a Houdini-like feat of contortion to get on and off ... but running is comfortable again. Maybe now I can finally shake those five extra pounds.

10 July 2008

Best Cartoon on Scientific Integrity?

The Union of Concerned Scientists is running a contest to raise awareness of the issue of political interference in scientific inquiry under the Bush administration. Vote here for your favorite cartoon.

Thanks, Sonja!

Buried in the New York Times

The Guardian has published a secret report from the World Bank which estimates that the use of grain for biofuel has raised food prices by 75 percent worldwide. Articles here and here, pdf version of full report here. And The New York Times? It buries the information in an editorial that acknowledges the role of production of biofuels but claims,
Some of the causes are out of governments’ control, including the rising cost of energy and fertilizer, and drought in food exporters like Australia. Higher consumption of animal protein in China and India has also driven demand for feed grains. Wrongheaded policies among rich and poor nations are also playing a big role.
The Guardian thinks the World Bank has withheld the report to avoid embarrassing President Bush. Is that why The Times won't provide any details about it either?

07 July 2008

I've Been Thinking About Paper

How dry do my hands have to be after I wash them on a hot summer day? Three paper towels gets them completely dry; two leaves them damp, one damper. Or I can skip the paper towels altogether, give them a shake, and move on. I've been experimenting.