Monday, November 30, 2015

Small Business Saturday and the Reason for the Season

          “No one in Newkirk remembered the reason for the season, except Friar Assalam . . .

The opening words of The Season reflect the message intended for the young adult audience of the 21st
 Century, but it is a message for all generations. My inspiration for “The Season” was borne from the tragic killings in New Town, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. I wanted to write a fantasy with a metaphorical message about the tragedy and what can be done to “return the robin’s song” to replace senseless violence.  
“The Season” chronicles a young man’s journey to the mountains to study the ancient texts that describe the reason for the season and his work to return the “robin’s song” to an area that has descended into crass commercialism and loss of interpersonal relationships due to the rise of social media. Since the publishing of the short story, there has been a small but growing revolution to balance the commercial intent of Christmas with a return to the original intent of the season. One such event is the designation of the Saturday after Black Friday as Small Business Saturday to emphasize shopping local and small on that day.  I was one of 15 local authors invited to Dog Eared Books to set up a table and sell my books Saturday. My experience has rejuvenated my belief that we are moving toward a solution to some of these horrific scenes of violence that seem to ironically escalate during the season of peace and good will. 
When I arrived at the book store I was greeted by T.J. Rayhill, the owner who happens to be a student at Campbellsville University. Helping him was his grandmother Diana who cordially greeted each author and talked to us about our books. She assisted in picture taking and general host type duties. T.J.’s younger brother was dressed as Dewey the Dog and posed with each child who came into the store and there were many – all coming with parents and grandparents. It was a genuine family experience. The children were as enthusiastic about the books as were there parents. There was a nice assortment of customers coming through during the day and I sold quite a few books during my two and one-half hours there. The highlight of my day, however, was the sale of a copy of The Season to a woman who came with her eleven year old son. She told me of her intent to read the story with her son during this holiday season. If I sold only that one story, the day would have been a success.

Monday, November 9, 2015

One Simple Minded Opinion on a Complex Subject

A Portland Resident and Lay Person’s View about the Proposed Digest er

            I am a third generation resident of Portland. I grew up in the Neighborhood in the 50’s and 60’s and know from first hand experience the attention residents in this part of Louisville receive from the city as far as garbage pick-up, clean and well- maintained streets and sidewalks as well as the general attitude that Portland is the neighborhood where all the “trash” goes. My parents and other neighbors were always busy cleaning up and doing the best they could to keep our “side of the street clean.”
            I have returned to Portland after years away and have become actively involved in all the activities going on to revitalize our neighborhood and uplift our image. I have been actively following the efforts of a group of people interested in creating the area known as Food port that will impact my neighborhood. When I attended the first informational meeting at Western Middle School, I was fascinated with the idea of the digester – a contraption that will take food waste and create energy from the methane gas produced.   
Wow! I thought. I remember the stinky smells from garbage cans and areas around the River that people used to dump their food waste when I was a kid. I didn’t like those stinky smells in my neighborhood. Technology can be wonderful when used wisely. I know all too well the dangers of misuse of the internet and all that has brought into our society, so I appreciated the Food port representatives setting up informational meetings and answering all the questions directed to them honestly and straightforwardly. I was excited about the possibility of creating energy (clean energy) from garbage. I had read all kinds of reports of this already in use in Japan and countries in Europe. Therefore, I was stunned to read the article in the Courier-Journal a few weeks ago that said the digester was being suspended because of strong neighborhood resistance on the idea that this was just another way of “dumping” on poor neighborhoods.
I thought about that a lot as I was volunteering with PUP (Picking up Portland) and picking up lots of food waste that consumers here in Portland were dumping onto our streets and vacant lots. If we don’t want to be dumped on, then stop dumping on ourselves and our neighbors and expect somebody else to carry your waste to a landfill that may or may not be in your neighborhood.
 Like all citizens, I am concerned about air pollution from chemicals, so I did a little research about the chemicals being released into our air, water and soil – that are the major culprits. I also read about some of the technologies and methods being used and studied to combat this problem. I have copied and pasted some articles I found on the internet for you to read. This is not overly technical. It is easy to read and understand. After reading, I hope you will discover ways that you can help as an individual and better understand the things that are being done by our government and its agents to help us all.

“Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. In 2013, CO2 accounted for about 82% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Carbon dioxide is naturally present in the atmosphere as part of the Earth's carbon cycle (the natural circulation of carbon among the atmosphere, oceans, soil, plants, and animals). Human activities are altering the carbon cycle—both by adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and by influencing the ability of natural sinks, like forests, to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While CO2 emissions come from a variety of natural sources, human-related emissions are responsible for the increase that has occurred in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.” [1]

 The main human activity that emits CO2 is the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) for energy and transportation, although certain industrial processes and land-use changes also emit CO2. On the individual level this means: driving, electrical energy use and consumption of manufactured products and processed foods. What can individuals do to reduce this? Reduce (driving, turn off lights or energy using appliances when not in use). Reuse (Stop throwing away so much, especially one-time use plastics). It takes fossil fuels to manufacture that plastic bottle you drink your water from and the plastic also creates noxious gas as it is left to decompose on the sidewalk, in yards or in a landfill. Recycle -Stop throwing away materials that can be reused.

“Methane gas is also dangerous to the environment and its percentages in the atmosphere have increased since the Industrial Revolution. What is the main source of methane in our environment? “About 60 percent of global methane emissions stem from human activity—aside from landfills, the chief anthropogenic culprits are natural gas production and use, coal mines, and "enteric fermentation" (the polite term for the burps of livestock).” Therefore, what can humans do to decrease the amount of methane being produced by our garbage? “As a consumer, you can help a minuscule amount by reducing the amount of waste you send to landfills. But the most promising solutions aren't on the end-user level. The Lantern mentioned one such remedy a few weeks back: capturing methane from landfills and then using it to generate electricity or to supply gas-hungry industrial operations. In the agricultural realm, those cow burps can be made less methane-rich by fiddling with the animals' diets; Australian scientists contend, for example, that adding cottonseed oil to livestock feed can reduce each cow's methane emissions by up to 30 percent. (The typical cow belches forth about a third of a pound of methane per day.)”

These are not a bunch of scientific charts with numbers and exponential s and complicated math. I have simply written down the things I considered when I first heard about the digest er. I still don’t know if it is perfectly safe, however, in my simple mind, I think the dangers of the digest er are far less than what I have heard about nuclear waste and pipelines. I do, however, prefer a machine that takes garbage that has been dumped and puts it into a machine that scrubs it and turns it into energy or fertilizer to breathing in the methane from careless dumping of waste. This is much more preferable in my opinion than living in a neighborhood where I have to walk past and smell toxic cigarette butts and food and container waste left on the sidewalk or vacant lots or clogging our drains.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I Voted - Did You?

What a great fall morning! I walked to the polls – only one-half a block away from my house. This was quite a change for me because of the many years I lived in Oregon where the vote is done at home through a mail in ballot. I liked this for many reasons. One was that with every ballot I received a booklet that contained unbiased information about all the candidates and how their stand on the issues would impact me as the voter. After years of the mail in ballot, however, I now live in Kentucky and for the first time in almost 20 years, I walked to the polls and voted. I even used a paper ballot! Boy, did that remind me of our heritage as voters in a free country!

Now, to the actual ballot. One of the best things about living in Kentucky is that the election for the state executive offices from the governor on down as well as members of the judicial branch are held in odd numbered years. That gave me a chance to really focus on the election of state officials and who I wanted to vote for and not rely on simply checking a straight party ticket. This is not how I vote. I look at each issue and think about how that affects me as a voter who wants to use my vote to make a stand on the issues not any one Party or personality. As I made my decision, I took two issues that are most important to me and looked for the candidate who might take a stand on them.

In the race for governor, unfortunately, I found no candidate willing to take a stand against dirty coal which has a grip on this state much like the tobacco industry of the late 20th Century. Yes, a lot of people lost jobs when the facts about health and smoking came to light, but since Kentucky was a tobacco producing state from the growing of tobacco to the manufacture of tobacco, no candidate for any office – Democrat as well as Republican – ever took a stand against that. Kentucky’s health rates due to excessive cigarette smoking are the major cause of the burden of health care right now due to heart disease, emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer. I have lost three relatives too soon to the diseases and the culprit – cigarette smoking.

Now, we are dealing with health issues from asthma to chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, etc. The cause dirty air and water. Major cause – fracking. Instead of tobacco, we now have Peabody Coal controlling the voting public in most of Kentucky, especially Pike County, in the name of jobs. Therefore, in making my decision for governor, I had to vote against someone, not really for someone. I hate this method of voting, but that was my only choice.

In the race for Cabinet Departments, I again had to make a decision based on voting against something instead of for something. I voted against the candidates who used attack ads. Those were for state auditor. For the Secretary of Agriculture, I found I had a choice.  In the ads I saw for this post, I discovered both candidates told why they wanted to have this post as it related to Kentucky agriculture. I voted for the candidate that stated clearly his desire to return Kentucky to family farms and local production of food. That is more important to me than joining the bloc against Monsanto in the federal government. Family farms and local producers are using different methods and when I buy from them I can go right to the producer and find out the methods they use and decide whether or not to buy from them. For Secretary of State, I voted for Allison Grimes, a real candidate who cares about Kentucky and ran for the Senate against Mitch McConnell last year. Her loss was unfortunate because she made a weak effort to take on Kentucky’s dirty coal but the people here aren’t ready for that.

In the Judiciary, I voted for the judge that I believe would best represent fairness and justice when making decisions in the courts here. Well, that’s my story. I voted, did you?

Monday, November 2, 2015

November is Peace Month

The World’s Most Famous WAR MEMORIAL POEM
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Lieutenant Colonel John McCraeIn Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

On May 2, 1915, John McCrae’s close friend and former student Alexis Helmer was killed by a German shell. That evening, in the absence of a Chaplain, John McCrae recited from memory a few passages from the Church of England’s “Order of the Burial of the Dead”. For security reasons Helmer’s burial in Essex Farm Cemetery was performed in complete darkness.
The next day, May 3, 1915, Sergeant-Major Cyril Allinson was delivering mail. McCrae was sitting at the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the YserCanal, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, Belgium.
In Flanders Fields Poem
As John McCrae was writing his In Flanders Fields poem, Allinson silently watched and later recalled, “His face was very tired but calm as he wrote. He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."
Within moments, John McCrae had completed the “In Flanders Fields” poem and when he was done, without a word, McCrae took his mail and handed the poem to Allinson.
Allinson was deeply moved:
“The (Flanders Fields) poem was an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."
Photo © 2006-2009
In Flanders