27 April 2008

Too Much Going On

Since Friday:
Daughter #2 called to say she was coming back to Winona on Monday, not in two weeks
Got invited to the DFL Convention dinner
Started fixing upstairs for daughter #2 & partner
Moved 6 bookcases and probably 1500 books from one room to another
Dug (supervised son #2 digging it actually) fence post hole, set post, poured concrete around it
Cleaned kitchen (cannot tell that I did it now, though)
Did some laundry
Went to dinner as Sharon Ropes guest
Realized that invitations for next Saturday's party had not been created or sent
Decided to give out buttons at party
Planned menu for party
Created buttons designs for party
Created invitation for party
Created 32 emails to send to guests with invitation attached
Realized that 32 1M pdfs would hose email account
Optimized pdf for web
Posted pdf on website
Changed 32 emails (removed attachments inserted link)
Sent emails
Discovered that email inbox was already too full
Deleted several hundred junk emails

Should be in bed, it's nearly midnight. Felt I should blog, so I wrote this nonsense.
Good night

23 April 2008

New site published

I uploaded the new www.854w5th.com website. The home page for the site has not been changed, but the sites for Abelisto (Wes) and myself (Monta) are totally redesigned. These redesigns are totally my work, and are not based on templates. The home page for 854w5th.com is still template based. Wes' pages reflect his current Beekeeping research and project. Mine are primarily an updated portfolio website.

I will be redesigning that page soon. I may need to do the Winona DFL site first.

New Email Signature

Normally I just use my contact information for my email signatures. I have always thought that adding some pithy signature was either pretentious or preachy or polly-anna-ish.

Last month I actually added one - "Please consider the environmental affect of unnecessary printing." that seemed to be enough to say, to remind people that they do not have to print everything. Yesterday I changed my email signature to:

Inspire rebellion to promote defiance to achieve social justice.

The inspiration for this was a lunchtime webinar that Abelisto and I attended at the university where we work. The webinar was produced by Magna Online Seminars and The Teaching Professor. It was an interview with Michael Newman, author of Teaching Defiance: Stories and Strategies for Activist Educators. On page 10 Newman challenges us with a mission - "Our job is... to teach people how to make up their own minds, and how to take control of their moment. It is to teach choice. It is to help ourselves and others break free from our pasts, plan for the futures we want and resist the futures we do not want. Our job is to teach defiance."

There was an explanation of what teaching defiance is made up of, how one teaches it. There was also a good discussion of critical thinking and the fact that the idea of critical thinking has been domesticated.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Newman, we must make teaching defiance central to our work. The knowledge and skills we transfer to our students must be used in the name of defiance to create a more just and socially aware world. That is the path to salvation of the world and everyone in it.

Inspire rebellion to promote defiance to achieve social justice.
Amen brothers & sisters.

22 April 2008

American Craft Council Show

Abelisto & I went up to the Saint Paul on Friday to attend the American Craft Council show at the River Center. Another professor was teaching Abelisto's second class of the day so he was finished at 8:353a.m. I have vacation time that needs to be used up before May 31.

So I took the day off. We saw a lot of really interesting work - most of it way out of our price range. There was an ottoman made by Robert Harman that I loved. We spoke with Robert (I think it was Robert). His studio is in my hometown (Bloomington Indiana) and we promised to come by next time we go to visit family. His work is wonderful.

I made contact with a couple artists who are interested in having me do their websites. That might be a good thing, when everything is said and done.


I have not written about my art practice in a long time. I do not want anyone to think I have stopped doing art. There have been times in my life when I have stopped doing art - times when I have not been in the frame of mind that is receptive to inspiration, times when life has been so overwhelming that doing more than just surviving has been impossible.

That is not what is going on right now. I have several projects in the works, but I have not felt like any of them are at a point where I can or should write about them. For the most part I am collecting objects and ideas and experiencing what Devora calls the fallow time - the time when the ideas are incubating somewhere inside my head, waiting for the spark to happen.

Some of the things I have collected:
old buttons
old photographs of weddings from the early 1900s
driftwood fragments
broken glass and mirror shards
interesting fabrics
copper wire (really thick copper wire)
a child's compass
a broken watch face (analog)
an old whistle
costume jewelry (some broken)
semi-precious rocks
plain river rocks
stamped metal letters
scrabble letters
fishing tackle
miscellaneous hardware

I am not sure what will come of all of this yet. I have hopes of doing something with a mixed-media quilted project. I also want to make body armor from fabric and found objects. I have been making sketches - unusual for me since I usually work freestyle rather than from diagrams or plans.

Daughter #3 wants to do a fashion show in the fall with me and one or two others. I have half-a-dozen or so garments in mind for it. I might make the body armor part of the show also.

21 April 2008


Abelisto & I have been talking about anarchy and anarchists. I believe I am an anarchist, but I have not figured out which type of anarchist I am.

I am not an advocate of chaos. That is not what anarchy really is.

I believe in local decision-making and locally based power. I believe that setting up permanent hierarchies, creating the opportunity for career politicians, leads to abuses of power and a strengthening of the systems that keep those in power in power.

I think that local decisions, local empowerment, local sustainability, is key to the health and well-being of our planet and ourselves. I think that only when issues and situations are too large for local efforts should the decisions be made at a regional or national level. And even then it should be a coalition of the local groups affected.


16 April 2008

Doing another redesign

I must be a bit crazy.
I am right in the middle of a nearly overwhelming web redesign at work - a huge project with the herculean task of condensing and redesigning a website that now has over 3000 pages.

I just redesigned the Sustain Winona website, and I am still playing with that a bit.

I am on the technology committee (chair no less!?!) for the Winona County DFL and have undertaken the redesign of that website.

I have promised to look at the Dakota Homecoming site and see about redesigning it.

And I have decided that I need to redo Abelisto & my website.

Last night I worked on Abelisto's part of our website.


15 April 2008


I am wondering if we are entering a new Dark Ages... The Roman Empire really had no idea that it was about to fall. The fall took place over a long enough time period that there was no warning. There was just one long slow decline, accented by various events that we label as markers retrospectively.

I have to think about this.

14 April 2008

Wheat Sensitivity

I have discovered that I have a wheat sensitivity. I never knew how much wheat we eat until this past month.

I went to the doctor in February for a checkup and to ask about a few things. Mainly I wanted to know if I have arthritis in my hip (Lymes disease a few years back), and if there was anything I could do for my digestive disturbances.

The doctor gave me some meds - which I took for a few weeks and then kept forgetting to take. I am terrible with medications. I never remember to take them. I think that had I noticed a marked difference that I would have remembered them better. But during those weeks I did not notice any improvement at all. In fact, the symptoms seemed worse if anything.

I did some research and the most often item that popped up in my reading was wheat allergies and wheat intolerances. Many of the sympoms for wheat intolerance were really close to what I had. so I thought I would try not eating wheat for a while and see if it helped.
Read more (includes a recipe)...

Today marks the third week with no wheat. I have to say I feel much better. When I forgot and ate wheat one day I could tell the difference the next day.

It is hard to find pre-made food though - of any kind. And eating out consists mostly of salads and veggies. All good, but I sure miss chocolate cake and designer sandwiches and giant burritos at Chipotles. Maybe I will end up losing some weight without those things in my meals.

I love breads, and that is the hardest. I bought some of the wheat-gluten free breads, but they tend to taste weird and most of them have a disturbing texture. So I have started making my own baked goods.

The best is a cookie/scone-like concoction that I made up a recipe for:

1 cup butter (sorry, not organic - yet)
1 1/2 cups of homemade vanilla sugar (two vanilla beans in a 1/2 gallon jar filled with organic raw sugar and let sit for a couple weeks - more sugar added to replace what I take out)
2 large eggs (local and organic)
1/2 tsp of aluminum-free baking soda (Bob's Red Mill, I think)
1 1/2 organic oat flour, oat bran flour, brown rice flour or a combination of any of them
2 cups organic rolled oats (not quick ones)
1 cup organic coconut
1 cup organic chopped dates (or more if you like really chewy baked goods)
1 cup organic pecans, almonds or walnuts - chopped
1 1/2 cups organic chocolate chips

Do the usual when making cookies - cream the butter, add sugar, mix well, add the eggs. Sift the dry stuff (including all the goodies) and then mix them into the butter-sugar-egg mixture. This doug will be pretty stiff, so butter up your hands and make balls - I make mine about the size of a tangerine - and flatten them slightly on a baking stone or cookie sheet.

They take a long time to back (at 350 or 375), so do not rush them. But you need to also be sure not to over bake them.


Making Sustainability Sustainable III: Personal Decisions, part 3

Making Sustainable Sustainable I
Making Sustainable Sustainable II: Issues & Dilemmas
Making Sustainability Sustainable III:Personal Decisions, part 1
Making Sustainability Sustainable III: Personal Decisions, part 2

Okay, I mentioned swapping out all the incandescent lights in the house for CFLs. What I did not mention was that it cost Abelisto & I around $225.00 to do so.

Organic, local butter costs nearly $7 per pound (the regular butter is between 1.85 and 2.05), Organic cotton socks are over $10 per pair, and a friggin' hybrid car is way more than I can spend on a vehicle right now.

A friend of mine said to me recently, "I can afford to buy organic and local, so it is my duty to do so. That is the only way it will ever become affordable for others. We need a critical mass of people buying green in order to make it viable and affordable."

I hope she is right. For now, we buy as much at the co-op as we can afford. I am still having trouble paying over three times more for butter.

13 April 2008

Making Sustainability Sustainable III: Personal Decisions, part 2

Making Sustainable Sustainable I
Making Sustainable Sustainable II: Issues & Dilemmas
Making Sustainability Sustainable III:Personal Decisions, part 1

So how do we know when something we purchase or something we do fits in a sustainable lifestyle? I went looking for a consumer report for green living. I found:
The International Forum on Globalization
Co-op America
Yes Magazine

Now I need to find the time to do the research. Until then I will be trusting the local co-operatives to give me the straight information when I ask - is this laundry product REALLY green?

Turning our yard into Beelandia

Beelandia - with Top Bar Hive Metpropolis

Today we did some more fencing. With major help from #2 son, Abelisto & I all but finished the section of the yard we are planning to fully enclose for the bees. It is actually about a third of our yard in all. There is some yard in the front that is not fenced at all, and there will be about the same amount in the back as the fenced portion that will only have a dividing fence between our yard and the next house. We are waiting for people to remove a boat and RV and a dog kennel and a stack of firewood that has encroached into our property over the last couple years. The guy with the boat and RV did ask us, but the dog kennel guy did not and I have no idea whose firewood it is - it just appeared one day while we were at work...

We still have a bit more to do on this enclosure - one section in the front to put up (the post is set in concrete since it was next to the house - and it needs to set for a day or two before we hang a section of fence on it) and the rear gate (which would be immediately to my right as I took this photo). The section of the fence that will be the gate needs trimmed with the skilsaw in order to fit in the space allocated for the gate. We will do these two things one night this week.

Abelisto has already started the digging for the various plantings he has in mind. Once the fence is finished I want to remove the screening from the side porch and build steps from it down to the side walk. Then I want to get some nice chairs for the porch. Not a swing - those things give me motion sickness...

Next - the ROOF!!!


09 April 2008

Sustain Winona

Last week (or maybe it was the week before) I finished doing the Sustain Winona website. I am not in the Sustain Winona task force - I just wanted to redo the website since it was not what I thought it should/could be.

No one has given me any change or told me that they hated it, so I thought I would post a link here (and in my Blogroll) just to share the site.

Sustain Winona

Making Sustainability Sustainable – III:
Personal Decisions, part 1

Making Sustainable Sustainable I
Making Sustainable Sustainable II - Issues & Dilemmas

We (Abelisto & I) have been trying to pick one or two things at a time to do that will move us in a green direction.

First it was swap out the light bulbs in the house - out with incandescents, in with CFLs. I am not sure how much it helped us with the electric bill, but it felt like we were on our way. I can tell you, buying all CF lights for a 14-room house was expensive. We did it all at once, so the pain would be over quick - like jerking a bandaid off instead of easing it off. Mainly we did it in one-fell-swoop so that it would get done. At this point all the lights on the first and second floor of the house are CFLs, porch lights too. The basement still has four incandescent light bulbs. I keep forgetting to swap them out.

The other day one light broke (I think son #2 was practicing swordsmanship inside the house instead of going outside to do it). It did not shatter, but just cracked at the base. For some reason, as I was giving him the replacement bulb, I happened to read the back of the package and saw that there are special recommended disposal practices for fluorescent bulbs - never knew that, should have. EGAD - my wonderful CFLs, those energy saving beacons of light, contain Mercury. Just a small amount, true, but I do not want to be adding any Mercury to the water table here. Already you cannot safely eat the fish from the lakes and rivers. I stopped eating local fish in 1989.

I wondered how much Mercury my son was exposed to when he cracked that CFL. It is now inside a ziplock bag, waiting for a trip to the hazardous waste center.

NPR Story

EnergyStar (EPA program) Infosheet on CFLs & Mercury (pdf file) - a bit scary when you get to the part about cleaning up broken CFLs...

08 April 2008

Hot chicks - cold night

The person or persons that stole the chicks from the biology lab did a awful thing with them. They left them, on a night where the temperatures were just above freezing (yes we are still having night time temperatures in the low 30s) along side the road, in the rain. I can sort of understand rescuing chicks from experiments (although after asking those who would know, I found out that the experiments did no lasting damage to the chicks and were relatively pain-free). What pisses me off is that someone would take the chicks and then risk their lives by abandoning them aside the road at 10 p.m.

Anyway, someone saw them and called the police. The the police and a couple bystanders rounded them up and took them to the Humane Society. Abelisto & I wondered if the caller was the thief. If so the chicks were not really in a great deal of danger, as long as the caller made sure that the police came to get the chicks. However one chick died of exposure, and several lost toes. We also wondered if the bystanders mentioned in the story were in fact the perpetrators of the deed.

Winona Daily News Story (with video) - written before it was known the chicks were from our lab. Ecosheba - one of the comment posters - is daughter #3. She broke the story that the chicks came from the biology lab.

The Winona Post story


07 April 2008

Making Sustainability Sustainable – II:
Issues & Dilemmas

One problem with talking about sustainability is that it is an overwhelming idea. There is such great inertia against changing our lives, especially if we think it means deprivation of any kind... even inconveniencing ourselves is sometimes just more than we can contemplate. I admit it - I have those days.

Another issue is the fact that it is so very difficult to know when we are hearing/reading valid information, and when what we are hearing/reading is just sales hype.

A third major problem with sustaining the sustainability movement is it is so DAMN expensive to go green - or at least it feels like it is. Products cost so much more when they stick the Green sticker on them

And the last issue (at least the last that I can think of right now) is that there is not much solidarity in the movement. So many people are doing so many different things. I know that there rarely is the unity in a social movement that people think there is. But I cannot help thinking that a bit more unity and common direction would help considerably.

I have to think about this incrementally or I will just give up on it. And giving up on it will feel worse than eating bad food when I know I should not, or not exercising when I know I should.


Missing Chicks

Someone took some chicks from our biology labs over the weekend. The chicks were to be used in an experiment determining the effects of hormone injections. I am not certain what all the experiment entails, but I am sort of glad the chicks have escaped the experience.


03 April 2008

Making Sustainability Sustainable

Went to the Twin Cities this week with my boss for the meeting between our web team and the vendor that we are working with on the website redesign. It is a bit over two hours each way for us to go up there. We talk a lot. It is sort of nice to be able to do that. On the way up we talked about our tastes in music (I had taken my iPod and FM transmitter) and our families and what we were doing at various times growing up (we are close in age, but from different areas of the country) which got us started again on music. He asked if I could guess what artists were on his iPod (he has a really strange mix). We also talked about sustainable living, something which interests both of us.

On the way back we talked a great deal about sustainability - after we finished taking apart the meeting we had just been to and putting it back together again.

My boss gave me a charge - figure out how to make sustainability, the sustainable life movement, sustainable.

Now that is quite an assignment. Anyone have any IDEAS?