Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Garden Beds Need Blankets Too: Cover Crop Class Offering

Join me this Sunday the 21st for a class on the basics of cover cropping. Located at West Seattle Nursery near Morgan Junction in West Seattle.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Crowdsourcing Democracy? Musings on the Number of Representatives inthe U.S. House

Looking at the Federalist Papers for an unrelated reason, I saw #58, "Objections that the Number of Members (of the House of Representatives) Will Not Be Augmented as the Progress of Population Demands". It states that as we augment the number of representatives based on the 10 year census, that number "shall not exceed one for every 30,000 inhabitants." Given a U.S. population of about 318M people, at that rate we would have over 10,000 representatives in the House. Currently we can't seem to get along at the much smaller number of 435. I'm not sure how it would look, but maybe it's time to harness online technology and figure out a (constitutionally compatible) way to formally crowdsource our legislative process.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Not to mention, it's an untested idea, and why do we need to change the way we do things anyway? Well, in the 2012 elections House Republicans won the majority of the seats, at 234 seats versus the Democrats' 201. However, those 234 seats represent 58,228,253 votes, while the Democrats' 201 seats represent 59,645,531 votes. So even though the Democrats won many fewer seats, they actually received 1,417,278 more votes than Republicans. Of course we all know that one of the founding principles of our government was to avoid as much as possible the "tyranny of the majority", so who cares that the majority of seats represent a minority of votes? Because, when we created the two houses of Congress, it was the Senate which was intended to temper the tyranny of the majority, having only two members elected by each state, regardless of population. The House members, being loosely tied to population and elected by district, are intended to be the individual's door to influence at the federal level. Nearly 1.5M more votes being represented by the minority party would seem to demand some sort of revision to the process.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Getting Unstuck: A Year of Expanding Possibility

I created this picture with the Sketch Club app for iPhone.
The day before yesterday, Memorial Day 2014, I had one of my regular tantrums about the house. More specifically, a tantrum about my own housekeeping (or dire lack thereof).

I've always been challenged in this area, and consider it one of my greatest failings. It isn't that I don't know how to clean; I used to have a housecleaning business and am a very meticulous person. But this meticulousness for me has been magnified into a paralyzing perfectionism. A perfectionism which keeps me stuck deep in a mire of spiritual self immolation on an almost daily basis.

The image that came to mind earlier today was one of a car stuck in the mud, tires spinning but not gaining traction. Every so often, the tires of my life gain a bit of traction - just enough to skid haphazardly out of the deep hole they've made and land on solid ground. But then that pesky perfectionism spurs me to put my foot on the accelerator, shoving the car into a higher and higher gear until once again I've dug myself into a hole. A hole inches, perhaps feet, ahead of the last.

Somewhere in there is the place where I have my regularly occurring tantrums. Sometimes I yell at Brent, sometimes at the girls, sometimes at everybody. It always ends in tears (hopefully but not always just my own). I think now that those tantrums come right as I've landed on solid ground. One might think they come right before the tires gain traction, but what I think happens is that I get situated, begin to see the horizon, and panic. It's just all too big and too overwhelming to contain, and I get more and more frustrated that I can't move faster and make it all happen now, perfectly, exactly the way I'm imagining it.

As I type this I see how childish this is. It isn't that I didn't know it before, but I'm seeing it now, in this very moment, in a different way. Not in a chiding way, but in a matter of fact way. A sort of detached "wow.".

So, Memorial Day night, after the girls had gone to bed, Brent and I resolved to get a bunch of chores done and make some progress digging ourselves out of the giant mess that had been festering for days. Piles of laundry (both dirty and clean), dirty dishes, toys, the works. As I was putting some laundry in the washer he made some innocuous joke about my lack of attention to my surroundings. My feelings were very hurt, and I proceeded to tear into him. I didn't practice mindfulness, I didn't take a breath, I didn't do all the things I know to do in those moments. Fast foward to an hour or so later, after the yelling and the tears (all mine, by the way). We were talking about the idea of creating a goal for me to have the house "perfect" 90% of the time. He asked me how long I thought that could take. My answer? "I don't know. When I'm 80?" I was only being partially facetious. I figured, hey, I've been struggling with this all my 44 years, so it could easily take that long for me to get out of it, right?

He chuckled slightly as he said "I don't think it could be tomorrow. Maybe a year from now? What do you think is realistic?"

I balked. My eyes welled up. I sat in pained silence, realizing that tomorrow is exactly what I wanted, and I knew damn well that wasn't even close to realistic. Even a year... well, maybe. But so long??? "I don't know," I said. "I definitely want tomorrow, but I know that's not happening. Maybe fall? By the time school starts up again."

"Not realistic", he said flatly. Of course deep down I knew this. So after a bit more balking, I agreed to a goal of a year, with a slight revision. Memorial Day 2015, my goal is to have the house "perfect" at some time during any given day 80% of the time. "Perfect" doesn't need to be defined, we both know what it is. And maybe I'll get there, and maybe I won't, but two days later I can already feel the ground shifting. And, I'm getting out of my car. I added a task today to my Atracker app, called "reassess". It's categorized under "self care", and I chose an icon of a person hiking. Hiking is a much steadier way of climbing a difficult, muddy hill than driving.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Folly of Continued "Growth"

"Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good. Still, the latest forecast from the Congressional Budget Office is sobering. Its economists anticipate a “new normal” average annual growth of only 2.1% (down from the average of 3 to 4% over the last half century), with job growth averaging only 70,000 a month (down from an average of 150,000 to 200,000 over the last half century). Some of this is be due to an aging American population, but some is surely the result of widening inequality. Since the start of the recovery, 95% of all economic gains have gone to the richest 1%, who spend only a fraction of what they’re accumulating. As a result, the rest of the nation doesn’t have the purchasing power to get the economy out of first gear. If this continues much longer, the “new normal” may be far worse than the CBO anticipates."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My First Petition

I have been fuming and festering about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The relative secrecy surrounding the exact terms of the proposed agreements, and the lack of ability for even elected officials to speak clearly about it, have been disturbing to me. So I created a petition to the White House to publish the details of the agreement online for citizen review and comment:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Self Satisfaction, Human Rights, and the Sochi Olympics

"Like the legend of the phoenix
All ends with beginnings
What keeps the planet spinning
The force of love beginning..."
 - Daft Punk, Get Lucky
This morning I opened a link that my husband had shared on his Facebook page and texted me to tell me it was "so funny". It was a link to the Russian police choir singing Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Now, I've been following the unfolding of the spectacle that is the Sochi Olympics the way I follow most things: Tangentially, through short video clips, pithy updates on Facebook and Twitter, and a long form article here and there, usually guided by my husband, who is a much more avid reader of news than I. In addition, the Olympics has never held much interest for me, being that it involves "sport", the ignorance of which has comprised a closely held piece of my self image. 
However, the Seattle Seahawks going to, and then winning, the Superbowl this year has tempered some of that cultivated ignorance the past few weeks. I avidly watched the live stream of the Seahawks parade, surrounding myself with the intensity of a community joyously celebrating, together, the culmination of a huge amount of work done by the coach and players of the team. Of course there was the running social commentary in the back of my mind: The near complete omission of our city's female champions, the Seattle Storm; the concussions, violence, and brutality of football itself; the social justice implications of black and working class men performing for a rich audience; the feminist implications of the primary female presence being the Sea Gals cheerleaders. But this year all that was blown away for me by the sense of people coming together in joy, people from all perspectives and walks of life gathering peacefully in a world overflowing with daily displays of suffering and violence.

So it was in this afterglow of shared excitement that I watched the Russian police choir perform one of my favorite songs at a hotly debated Olympics opening ceremony. Russia's oppressive regime has been in the spotlight ever since Russia was chosen to host the Olympic games. Many people, including myself at times, seriously question the wisdom of holding the games in a place that is so hostile to the LGBT community, whose government imprisoned members of a protest band for what in the U.S. would probably be considered a harmless, if offensive, prank, and which now famously was not ready for the influx of reporters and other visitors ahead of the 2014 games. When I opened the link to watch the video of the police choir performance, I fully expected to have a laugh about the cute buffoonery I've come to expect from this year's Olympic spectacle. Instead, though I did laugh at first, within about a minute I burst into tears. Tears of joy, watching these men, some of whom were clearly extremely uncomfortable, sing a song symbolic of love, dreams, rebirth, and tenacious clinging to one's personal identity in a world that offers so many ways to leave it behind. I know, I probably sound overly earnest here. It is, after all, a simple pop song about "getting lucky", right? "I'm up all night to get some/ She's up all night for good fun", end of story, right? But as I watched Russia's police choir performing, in the context of both #sochiproblems and @SochiProblems, the recently released former Pussy Riot members' press tour, the pomp of the ceremony and the rubble it didn't quite succeed in distracting us from, the entire modern history of Russia washed over me and I just cried. Some of the men in the choir were into it, singing and grooving like veteran pop stars. A few looked like they wanted to bop a little but couldn't quite let go. And then there were the ones who looked slightly terrified, definitely ill at ease, and like they were just there to carry out orders. They seemed to me in those moments to be watching their country shift and change into something unknowable, a Russian version of Archie Bunker being ordered to sing "Staying Alive".

Many of us who care deeply about human rights wish the International Olympic Committee would only choose countries with "good" human rights records. Countries that allow free speech, that don't discriminate so boldly against a variety of marginalized groups, countries where mayors don't proudly declare about LGBT people "... we don't have them in our city". Setting aside the truth that human rights is an issue in every country, including the United States, let's think about that for a moment. Do we really want the IOC to exclude countries deemed unworthy by some set of self satisfied moral standards? For an event that, in ancient times included the calling of a truce between warring states so that athletes could travel and compete in peace? Or, can we instead allow the events to open us up, crack open all that grief and rage, all the old wounds we all carry and inflict on one another, opened to be healed if even for a moment? After all, as the song goes, "We've come too far to give up who we are/ So let's raise the bar and our cups to the stars".