Lighten Up – Excerpts from a Cat’s Diary

Excerpts from a Cat’s Diary – Prefers to remain anonymous

Day 752— My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I’m forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant.

Day 761—-Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving in and out of their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, note must try at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair……must try doing this on their bed.

Day768—I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was given the water torture. This time however it included a burning foamy chemical called (shampoo). What sick minds could invent such a liquid? My only consolation is the piece of the thumb still stuck between my teeth.

Day 771—There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary confinement throughout the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the foul odor of the glass tubes they called ” Beer”. More importantly I over heard that my confinement was due to my Power of Allergies. Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

Day 774—I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half wit. The bird on-the-other-hand has got to be an informant he speaks with them on a regular basis. I am certain he is reporting on my every move. Due to his placement in a metal room his safety is assured. But, I can watch and I can wait. It is only a matter of time.

Going Solar: Answers to Common Questions

Going Solar: Answers to Common Questions

By Erica Sofrina,  Author of Small  Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World

Solar energy has been around for decades, but in the past few years it has  finally started to take off in residential markets. Previously it was considered  too expensive, but times have changed. The rising electricity costs,  improvements in panel technology, mass production of them as well as federal and  local governmental incentives have driven costs down.

Given all these current factors, going solar now is a much more affordable  investment which can lead you to free energy, increased property value & a  chance to do your part in going green.

As a part of my green home series, I interviewed my friend David Javate of SolarUniverse and asked him if he would  demystify solar and answer some common questions and misunderstandings:

Erica: Could you explain in simple terms exactly how solar energy  works?

David: Solar panels consist of “cells” of chemically treated silicon. These  silicon cells, when hit with light, induce a chemical reaction which produces DC  current. An inverter converts DC current into AC current which can then be  used by your household. Any unused electricity gets fed back to the grid, which  in turn spins your energy meter backwards.

E: Is solar reliable?

D: Absolutely. Solar energy has been around for over 50 years, and is a safe  and reliable source of energy. Panels are normally warrantied for a 25 year  lifespan, but usually last longer. There’s a reason that NASA chose solar  panels to power their satellites. You may also notice them on street signs and  some public buildings.

E: What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

D: Traditionally, electricity is generated through the use of fossil fuels  such as coal and natural gas. Use of these fossil fuels produces carbon  emissions which cause pollution and global warming. The main environmental  benefit of solar energy is that using solar does not produce any carbon  emissions. Throughout the lifespan of a photovoltaic solar system for a 3  bedroom house, one could potentially reduce the carbon emissions equivalent to  140,000 tons of carbon, 227,00 miles not driven, or 2,500 acres of trees  saved.

E: Is solar a good investment for the basic homeowner?

D: It depends on the household and your usage. Physical issues first need to  be considered: Your roof should be south or southwest facing, should have  minimal shading obstructions and should also have enough space to hold the  appropriate number of panels to cover your energy goals.

In California where we are based, we usually recommend it as an energy  solution if your electric bill tends to be over $130/month if you are  considering a leasing option; however, if buying is an option, homeowners with  bills of $50-75/month can reap the benefits.

Currently, there are a number of incentives available, such as a 30 percent  federal tax credit, rebates through your utility company, and local incentives,  such as the GoSolarSF initiative which provides a $2,000 grant towards  installation for homes in San Francisco. If you choose to buy your system,  typical systems can have a payback period of 5-7 years. After you’ve paid it off  you’ll be able to reap the benefits of free & clean energy for the next  20 years!

E: What if someone doesn’t have the money now? Are there financing  alternatives?

D: The most attractive financing alternative is leasing. These come in  different forms, with or without a down payment, with or without a fixed  interest rate, and in a prepaid form, where a bulk amount of the lease  payments are made in advance at a discount. Depending on the lease you secure,  you should be able to take advantage of a substantially lower electric bill, at  a monthly predictable rate, without the upfront cost of buying.

E: If someone is interested in looking into a solar alternative, what  should they do next?

D: Do some research:

  • Look at your electric bill. Has it become a rising and annoying cost for  you? Is it causing you to limit your enjoyment in some activities?
  • Research solar companies in your area. Check them out on review websites  like Yelp & Angie’s list.
  • See what solar incentives are available to you through your utility  company, your city and county.
  • Consider buying versus leasing.  Buying can be a great investment  which pays for itself in a few years. Leasing can reduce your electric bill,  while also giving a predictable fixed rate for energy.

Solar energy can be a great energy solution which can zero out your electric  bill, add value to your property, and help reduce carbon emissions which harm  the environment. Not all homes are ideally suited to take full advantage of  solar, but with the info given in this article you should have a good starting  point to figure out if going solar is a wise choice for you.

David Javate is a SUN Advisor for SolarUniverse South San Francisco, and currently services  homeowners in the San Fransisco Bay Area.  You can reach him at  djavate@solaruniverse.com Website: www.solaruniverse.com

Readers please note: This article is solely for educational purposes, I  have no financial connection to the company mentioned.

 

10 Most Polluted Cities in the U.S.

10 Most Polluted Cities in the U.S.

By Brian Merchant, TreeHugger

There’s a pretty good chance you live in a city with air that’s so polluted it’s often unhealthy to breathe. Yes, you. Forty-one percent of Americans do. That’s 127 million people. That’s way too many.

The American Lung Association just released its annual ‘State of the Air’ report, which breaks down the most polluted cities in the nation. As usual, most of them can be found in California’s Central Valley. Here are the three different ‘top ten’ lists, according to the different kinds of pollution:

Cities with the Most Year-Round Particulate Pollution

#1: Bakersfield-Delano, CA
#2: Hanford-Corcoran, CA
#3: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
#4: Visalia-Porterville, CA
#5: Fresno-Madera, CA
#6: Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
#7: Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
#8: Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, OH-KY-IN
#9: Louisville-Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg, KY-IN
#10: Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD
#10 (It’s a tie!): St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL

Cities with the Most Short-Term Particulate Pollution
#1: Bakersfield-Delano, CA
#2: Fresno-Madera, CA
#3: Hanford-Corcoran, CA
#4: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
#5: Modesto, CA
#6: Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
#7: Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, UT
#8: Logan, UT-ID
#9: Fairbanks, AK
#10: Merced, CA

Cities with the Most Ozone Pollution

#1: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
#2: Visalia-Porterville, CA
#3: Bakersfield-Delano, CA
#4: Fresno-Madera, CA
#5: Hanford-Corcoran, CA
#6: Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Yuba City, CA-NV
#7: San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
#8: Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX
#9: San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
#10: Merced, CA

Hey, strong showing in all three by Bakersfield, L.A., and Hanford-Corcoran—nice work fellas; way to hustle.

If you’re looking for a silver lining in a report as inherently depressing as this one, at least there’s this: 22 of the 25 most polluted cities showed signs of improvement from last year’s report. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need tough air quality standards and plans to reduce traffic congestion—they work!—and we need them to keep getting stricter and more progressive, until 41 percent of the country isn’t breathing polluted air.

10 Tips for Creating a Zero Waste Home

By Erica Sofrina,  Author of Small  Changes Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World

I do my part to recycle and bring my own bags for purchases, but I am far  from producing zero waste. While lugging multiple recycling bins to the curbside  every week it has occurred me that I have a lot of recycling for only one  person. I never totally connected the dots that the goal should be to have a  system where all of the wrappers, junk mail, jars and cans don’t enter my home  to begin with!

I was recently inspired by a television show where Bea and Scott Johnson of  Mill Valley, California talked about their Zero waste lifestyle. They produce the equivalent of a quart  jar of waste per month for their entire family of four. Now that is pretty close  to zero waste and a goal I am going to aspire to!

In a recent article about them in Sunset magazine, I was inspired by their commitment  as a family to leave a lighter footprint. Their children are just as committed  to the cause, and wrap their lunches in large cloths which they roll up and  carry to school and reuse the next day. They have simplified their lives so  completely that they are able to pack up on a dime and spend extended periods of  time traveling and doing things they love. They are able to pay for the trips  because of the 40 percent less they are spending on living expenses! They also  rent their home while they are gone and use it as a teaching tool with detailed  instructions for the renters on how they can create a zero waste lifestyle.

I yearned for the freedom from encumbrances that they have achieved, and the  good feeling that comes from knowing my lifestyle is completely in alignment  with my ethics about sustainability for the planet. I am inspired by their  example to do more!

In Bea’s recent article in Yes magazine, she outlines 10 tips to help the  average person get on board and move closer towards zero waste. Here are some of  her great suggestions:

  • Refuse what you do not need.
  • Reduce what you do need.
  • Reuse by using reusables.
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or  reuse.
  • Rot (compost) the rest.

Refuse

1. Fight junk mail. It’s not just a waste of resources, but also of time.  Register to receive less at dmachoice.org, optoutprescreen.com and catalogchoice.org.

2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time  you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another  “free” pen?

Reduce

3. Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You’ll  lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy  secondhand.

4. Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you  bring home, the less waste you’ll have to deal with.

Reuse

5. Swap disposables for reusable (start using handkerchiefs, refillable  bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, etc.). You might find that you  don’t miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings. [Noted!]

6. Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for  bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store  and farmers market. [I always keep reusable totes in my car.]

Recycle

7. Know your city’s recycling policies and locations—but think of  recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question  the need and life-cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.

8. Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose  glass, metal, or cardboard. Avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the  world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, the  ocean).

Rot

9. Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what  it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).

10. Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle.  The bigger the compost the more people will use it. [I will add that you  want to have a bin that has a lid and is an attractive receptacle.]

I hope you will join me in working toward these zero waste goals in your own  household. I am going to start today with stopping the junk mail, which has been  a goal of mine for ages and I am ashamed that I haven’t gotten around to  it….Done!

 

Herb of the Day for June 11 – Chaparral Leaf

Herb of the Day – Chaparral Leaf
Native to the Southwestern parts of US and Mexico, Chaparral Leaf, or Larrea tridentata has long been used among Native Americans to treat arthritis, respiratory ailments, and even cancer. Interestingly, the plant produces a sap that keeps other plants from growing near itself, and while the branches may wither or fall off, the crown rarely dies and sometimes reproduces itself. Indeed, an example in California is believed by some to be well over 11,000 years old. For these qualities it was often revered within local lore, and the Southwestern Native Americans often used the sap as a sunscreen, and the plant in general as a treatment for assorted ailments, including blood poisoning, and liver disease. They also used to the leave to brew a tea that they would use to rid the body of parasites.

Modern herbalists see it most commonly as an expectorant, of great use in treating respiratory issues like asthma, bronchitis, and the coughing symptoms of the common cold. Chaparral Leaf has also been shown to possess antioxidant qualities, believed to help destroy the particles that destroy cells and possibly cause cancer. Studies have been conducted that show the leaf to aid in restricting cancerous growth. While the leaf possesses a great many positive qualities, it has been shown to occasionally react poorly with the liver, and you should discontinue use if you experience nausea, fever, fatigue, or Jaundice while using the herb.

Pagan’s Point of Interest – Pagans and the Pledge of Allegiance

Pagans and the Pledge of Allegiance

By , About.com Guide

Recently, during a conversation about schools and the Pledge of Allegiance, someone casually said to me, “Oh, you don’t say it, though, right? Because you’re not a Christian?” It wasn’t said in a confrontational way at all, but I was kind of surprised by the logic behind the statement. On thinking about it, I suspect it may not be an uncommon attitude among people who don’t know anything about Paganism.

Let’s face it, the Pledge of Allegiance can be a pretty hot-button issue for some folks. After all, there’s that whole separation of church and state bit, and here we are asking our children to recite an oath to the United State which includes a reference to what is clearly the Christian deity. But — much like other controversial issues in today’s society — there’s no big rulebook that says “Pagans can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance!”

The Pledge of Allegiance is actually based upon a poem written by a Baptist minister in 1892. Originally, it read as follows: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That was it. No mention of God, or even the United States itself. The reference to the “flag of the United States of America” was added in the early 1920s. During the Communist uproar of the 1950s, the words “under God” were added by Congress, turning the simple pledge into what some people see as public prayer.

So — do Pagans say the Pledge of Allegiance? I spoke to a few Pagans from around the country to see how they would respond to this issue, and the answers might surprise you.

Morgaine S., a Wiccan from Summerville, South Carolina, said, “I’m a Navy veteran and so is my husband, and I do love my country. I wouldn’t feel right about not saying the Pledge when asked to. I say the Pledge, but when I do I say “under my gods,” rather than the “under God” that everyone else says.”

A ceremonial magician who asked to be identified only as Lucius has just the opposite perspective. He said, “I don’t say the Pledge at all, because if you have to tell someone to pledge their allegiance, it’s meaningless. An oath of allegiance, whether it involves a god or not, should be voluntary and not something I’m compelled to do.”

Finally, Justyn Raine is a Pagan from California who says it doesn’t matter what god is referred to in the Pledge. “I say “under God,” because in my heart I know I’m referring to my god, not someone else’s. If you believe in any god at all, you can say the Pledge of Allegiance as it’s written.”

So, what does this mean to people who are wondering if they should say the Pledge? Political opinions aside, it’s a matter that’s a personal one — if you feel comfortable with saying the Pledge as it is currently written, go ahead. If you’d like to substitute your own deity’s name — or the phrase “under gods” instead — then do so. Likewise, if you don’t believe you should say the Pledge at all — for whatever reason — then don’t do it. The choice is yours — after all, in the United States we have the freedom to speak (or not speak) as our conscience guides us.

Vets Share Worst Things Their Pet Patients Ate

Vets Share Worst Things Their Pet Patients Ate

  • Nicolas, selected from petMD

Every year Veterinary Practice News holds a contest called “They Ate What?” in which veterinarians and clinic staff send in X-rays and case descriptions of the craziest things their patients have swallowed. The contest is a fun way to share offbeat incidents from the trenches of veterinary practice, but the stories do serve as a reminder that our pets need to be protected from the consequences of their dietary indiscretions. Here are a few highlights from the 2011 “They Ate What?” contest. Click through for the runners up and grand prize winner.

Honorable Mentions:

Melissa Seavey, Healthy Paws Veterinary Center, Westborough, MA

Ten baby bottle nipples were removed from the stomach of a 4-month-old golden retriever.

Stephen Crosby, CVT, VTS, New Haven Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine, New Haven, CT

An owner was feeding peanut butter off a spoon to her Alaskan malamute, who managed to gulp down the treat while it was still attached to the spoon. X-rays showed that the dog had previously also eaten a piece of a collar and a toy.

Caitlin Fickett, Alaska Veterinary Clinic, Anchorage, AK

A dog came in for vomiting and eating grass. X-rays revealed a foreign body in the stomach. The next morning, an additional X-ray better showed the object — a hard plastic dinosaur.

Patti Klein Manke, DVM, Woodstock Veterinary Clinic, Woodstock, NY

Prince Edward, a 9-year-old bulldog, ate his owner’s false teeth after finding them in a bowl of ice cream. The teeth were returned to the owner. (Hopefully they were cleaned well before being put back into duty!)

 

Runners Up:

Lisa Anne Attanasi, DVM, Eaglewood Cliffs Veterinary, Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ

Wailen, a 12-year-old beagle, presumably was brought into the clinic with symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. His veterinarian ordered abdominal X-rays, which revealed a hodgepodge of foreign “stuff” in his stomach. During surgery, the doctor removed shoe laces, mulch, a knee high stocking, a plastic plant, plastic ties, and the bristles of a car snow-cleaning brush.

Jenny Yanson, practice manager, Suburbia North Animal Hospital

Tinkerbell, a 6-month-old bulldog, ate a metal slip collar, became ill, and was brought into her veterinarian’s office. X-rays revealed that this was not her first offense. Two slip collars were surgically removed from her stomach.

 

Grand Prize Winner:

Vanessa Hawksin, DVM, Bayshore Animal Hospital, Warrenton, OR

A dog came into the clinic because of hind leg lameness. The doctor ordered radiographs to look for musculoskeletal abnormalities, and found nine handballs in the dog’s stomach instead. (I assume these were unrelated to the dog’s lameness.)

****

Special Kitty of the Day for February 7th

Popoki, the Cat of the Day
Name: Popoki
Age: Eleven years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Siamese mix
Home: Shell Beach, California, USA
Popoki (Hawaiian for cat) was adopted at two years old (estimated by vet) and has been with us for almost five years. He’s “mostly” a flamepoint Siamese, who loves sightseeing from the window!

Popoki hid from every one for the first four to five weeks after we adopted him. He slowly began moving closer and closer to our common space until he made himself at home. He meows only when hungry or if a neighbor cat comes to his window. He also has an attitude when you aren’t feeding or playing with him on his terms. He turns his back on you, makes short meow sounds, and flicks his tail.

He likes to be in the same room as we are, but not too close (unless it’s his idea) Since our cats are always kept indoors, we have a pet stroller for an occasional outdoor stroll. Poki (as I call him) complains when you put him in the stroller, but seems to really enjoy all the sights and sounds around him. He often does somersaults when playing and literally melts when he gets his (hopefully) daily back massage. He is still afraid of new voices, the doorbell, and the sound of plastic bags, but boy is he friendly and loving when he smells a tuna can being opened!

For the past few weeks, he has decided that sleeping in our bedroom at night is a given, and I honestly think he knows the sound of the clock when it chimes twelve times (which is when he gets tidbit from my husband’s lunch). With age, he is becoming more affectionate as well (yay), and more of a people cat!

Special Kitty of the Day for February 5th

Moonlight, the Cat of the Day
Name: Moonlight
Age: Deceased, Three years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Cat
Home: Tustin, California, USA
Inominate Moonlight the Stray, who came to accept me as his friend. About three years ago I noticed that the cat food I was leaving out in the evening for my cat Smokey to snack on was disappearing. Then soon after I caught a glimpse of a ragged black and white cat scurrying away into the darkness at just the slightest movement of the wind. Just a spooky little guy. So I began to leave more food out and in no time I had a nightly visitor. Every evening when the sun set this scrawny cat would appear, and so he became known as Moonlight.

Moonlight made great strides in accepting me as his friend. From the malnourished thief of a cat who would steal Smokey’s food under the cover of darkness to that of an occasional lap cat whose purr sounded like thunder. Smokey tolerated him with an occasional nose boop. No longer a wisp of a feline but a big hunk of a tom and as soon as the sun had set I would hear Moonlight make his way upon the tops of the fences with a loud meow announcing his arrival. He would then dine upon two cans of food and a plate of crunchies before stepping inside for an hour long nap on the couch and an occasional brushing. Afterward he would return to the back porch and enjoy the evening for a few hours safe inside my yard. Sometime later he would venture off to make his nightly rounds but would always return the next night as sure as the moon would rise. For three years this feral cat and I understood each other and respected our places in the world. He lived his life and I lived mine, but for a few hours every evening we enjoyed each other’s company.

Then one evening he did not keep his dinner date. Nor did he the next night. Worried I would walk the neighborhood looking for any signs but never saw one. A week passed and nothing. On the ninth day I woke to find Moonlight sitting at the back door and since the sun was up I knew something was terribly wrong. I sat my injured friend in my lap for an hour and listened to his broken purr as he tried to get comfortable, but the look in his eyes told me a story that words could not.

Sadly, Moonlights injuries were too severe and he did not survive. Thank you my friend, you will be missed. I’m honored you accepted me as one of your own.

Green Outdoor Weekend Activities

Green Outdoor Weekend Activities

posted by Greennii
 

Spring has finally arrived here in Northern California and all this sunshine begs for fun things to do outside, which often also happen to be green. I tend to go outside at even the slightest hint of sunshine (then again, I’ve also been known to walk the dog in the rain just for fun), and do whatever it was I was doing inside, out under the sky. For instance, I’m sitting at an old-fashioned school desk, replete with wooden cross-bars under my seat for holding my books, and peeling green paint; outside; half under the Wysteria-covered arbor and half in the sun (the computer screen is oh-so-much easier to see in the shade); occasionally throwing the ball for my dog, who earlier got a little bath during the watering of the lettuce.

As I sit here considering the glistening, black-bottomed pool, I’m also considering the possibilities for the weekend:

1. Plant some organic lettuce. It’s so fun to open up your front door (or back door, or kitchen window) and snip off a few pieces of lettuce for your sandwich, a garnish or your dinner salad. I love lettuce and would have thought it beyond me to grow such a delicate, frilly, easily wilty plant, until my husband forced me to do so by planting a half-dozen little teeny baby lettuce plants and then promptly leaving them in my daily care. Turns out, lettuce is easy! Oh joy! So hop on down to whatever nursery is nearby and pick up a couple of six packs of the lettuce varieties which suit you. Then, rummage around in your backyard, ask your neighbor, scour the garage sales and thrift stores, and find yourself some shallow, wide pots (you could also plant each lettuce in its own pot, which would be very cute, but perhaps space-consuming). Stop by your local ACE and pick up some organic potting soil (or grab some where you get your lettuce). You’re ready to plant! Lettuce wants its little neck sticking out a bit, so don’t plant all the way up to the leaves. Keep the soil moist. Cut leaves from the bottom as soon as the plant starts growing.

2. Visit the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, held the first Sunday of every month, which just so happens to be next Sunday, April 3. Take a list with you of things you were otherwise going to buy brand new and see what you can find. I have not yet been, but I have it from a reliable source (read: friend who loves antiques and has discerning taste) that this is the best show in the Bay Area.

3. Go to any of the local farmer’s markets held all around the Bay Area. Most have food (the kind someone makes for you, not the kind you buy and take home as ingredients) vendors, so you can take your appetite and eat there. Take your refillable coffee mug along and get your morning dose from one of the local coffee shops along the street. Use these guides to find the market closest to you:

4. Unplug your life (and that of your family or a group of friends) and go outside with a picnic made from the organic stuff you bought at the farmer’s market (or at least from a small, local market). If you drive in a group, you’re lowering your carbon footprint, as well as not using all those electronic devices you’d be using if you stayed at home. Check out any of the local beaches, state parks or local parks and enjoy nature. The California State Parks system is vast, and their website has great ideas and guides for getting outdoors:

I’m likely to do at least two of the above, unless I decide to help my husband and our friend finish changing a Land Cruiser from right-hand-drive to left. I’m guessing the beach will win out over that. At least for me and the dog.

-Jocelyn Broyles