The Curious Autodidact

May 31, 2008

China: Reading Instead of Digging at the Beach to Discover it

Filed under: book related — Honilima @ 12:19 am

Life and Death in Shanghai.jpg

As an American I never thought that I could possibly grasp the long history of China but Nien Cheng in her book LIFE AND DEATH IN SHANGHAI explains it so poignantly. She and her daughter endured much hardship during the cultural revolution and her memoir is stunning. Likely in my top fifty all time reads. Check it out!


May 27, 2008

More Timeless Quotations

Filed under: Word Related — Honilima @ 8:32 am


The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser – in case you thought optimism was dead. -Robert Brault, software developer, writer (1972- )

The butterfly counts not years but moments and has time enough. -Rabindranath Tagore

The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself.

-Rita Mae Brown, writer (1944- )

Underground nuclear testing, defoliation of the rain forests, toxic waste … Let’s put it this way: if the world were a big apartment, we wouldn’t get our deposit back. -John Ross

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three. -Alice Kahn

May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Filed under: origin of phrases — Honilima @ 7:45 am

Arlington National Cemetery

Memorial Day had its origin at the end of the Civil War when on May 30th 1868 General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, honored the soldiers and sailors who had given their lives in the horrific civil conflict. He chose to honor the war dead of not only the victors but both the Union and the Confederate soldiers who were buried at Arlington, by decorating their graves with flowers. This was known as Decoration Day then some time after World War I this became known as Memorial Day, a day set aside to memorialize and pay tribute to all those who gave their lives in military service to the country. It is celebrated on the last Monday in May each year and is a United States Federal holiday.

May 21, 2008

Things you can do Today to Help Save the Earth

Filed under: environmental ideas,helpful hints — Honilima @ 12:18 am

  • Walk instead of drive
  • Buy from the bulk bins at the grocery store
  • Bring your own bag when you shop
  • Turn off the TV
  • Begin to eat vegetarian
  • Don’t have children
  • Plant some vegetables
  • Work to stop the flow of junk mail
  • Use your computer printer sparingly
  • Become aware of your water use
  • Use contraception early and often

May 15, 2008

Leisure Matters from the New York Times

Filed under: helpful hints — Honilima @ 2:19 am

May 5, 2008 Shifting Careers

Why Leisure Matters in a Busy World


A few months ago, I spoke with a Canadian economist, Linda Nazareth, about her prediction that we are entering an age governed by changes in leisure patterns. We talked then about the ways that workplaces and businesses will evolve to accommodate and capitalize on the 77 million baby boomers who will, in increasing numbers, have excess time on their hands.

Suddenly, I started hearing about other aspects of the leisure field, an area I previously knew little about. Recently, I came across the work of Alison Link, whose work with people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated was described in a column by Samuel G. Freedman in The New York Times in 2006. Though Ms. Link works primarily with at-risk populations, she says that we can all improve our quality of life by paying more attention to leisure habits. I had a series of telephone calls and e-mail exchanges with Ms. Link, and the following is an edited version of those exchanges:

Q. How do you define leisure?

A. Believe it or not, the field of leisure studies is a big area of academic study. Leisure has many different definitions – some involving time, some relating to an activity being done, some relating to state of mind. Personally, I am most at leisure when I feel free, present and integrated. I like this definition for myself because it allows me to experience leisure at any moment, even in just a few minutes. Leisure can happen when we are in various states: artistic or creative, physical, intellectual, social, spiritual, learning new things, volunteering, active, passive, or as a spectator or participant. One can be emotionally connected and engaged or not. And we can even have leisure at work and be more productive, healthy and creative.

Q. Can you give some examples of positive uses of leisure?

A. I hesitate to be more specific because I prefer to guide people as they figure it out for themselves. I ask people to look at the things that are most fulfilling to them and that make them feel like they are at their best. So I ask questions like, “What would you like to be doing in your life you are not doing now?” or “What would you like to do better or learn more about?” It’s a process, and it’s different for each person. I would never suggest that someone take a course to get started because that might feel like work to them.

Here’s an example of a work situation: one of my clients works in television, and her life is filled with stress during her filming season. In those periods, she works six days a week and has little energy for herself, her boyfriend and others in her life. She came to me in one of those stretches, in which she was so overwhelmed that she was waking up each morning just hoping to get through the day. It was affecting both her workday and the limited time she had outside of work.

Eventually, she said, she might make a big lifestyle change. But until she could do that we worked together on how she could add small bits of leisure into her days during those intense times. We were looking for small changes, the kinds of things she could do in 10 or 15 minutes. She created a list: she could call a friend who would make her laugh, take a walk to get coffee, sit for a few minutes in the park, even walk to and from work. Once she started to add some of these small bits of leisure to her life, she felt more free and happy at work, and she saw changes in her life outside of work, especially in how she interacted with others.

Q. Why should we care about our relationship to leisure?

A. Too often, leisure time that is not used in a satisfying way turns into idle time, or is used to do a single thing to excess (like overeating, or getting into family quarrels). It can even turn negative, which is what happens often in the cases substance use, delinquency and criminal activity. Also, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t define ourselves by our work? It should be just as valid to define ourselves by our leisure.

Q. A lot of your academic and field work focuses on at-risk, incarcerated and post-incarcerated populations. Why is leisure so significant for these populations?

A. Many people in at-risk populations have a lot of stress, pressures, risk-taking behavior, boredom and/or idle time. They may have, or perceive that they have, limited options or resources.

There is an opportunity to use leisure in a negative way while living on the street but also while in prison. Approximately 95 percent of people who are incarcerated in the United States are released and return to society at some point. This transition from incarceration to a life free from both crime and incarceration is a challenge for the more than 10 million people in the United States returning to society each year. Out of the more than 650,000 people returning from prison annually into the community, two-thirds are rearrested and half are reincarcerated. This affects not only these individuals’ lives but also those of their families, children, communities and society.

So equipping people with the ability to make more positive use of their leisure time while in prison and also once released is a holistic approach that helps empower the whole person, reduce the negative use of leisure and contribute to reducing recidivism.

Q. What does all this have to do with those of us whose lives have nothing to do with correctional facilities or addiction?

A. Whenever I conduct workshops with any group, I ask people how free they feel and to rate themselves on a scale of 0 to 100. The responses are usually about the same whether I am talking to people in a correctional facility or at a workplace. I have learned firsthand that some people feel free while behind bars (and use their time in a positive way), yet others feel “locked up” while living in society.

One thing I learned from working with incarcerated populations is that having a good understanding of leisure and implementing it can be a coping skill, especially through transitions. Prison re-entry to society is a major transition in one’s life. However, we all experience transitions whether big or small. Sometimes we have control of them and other times we don’t.

Waking up every day is a new transition. Every minute is a transition. Taking a new job, retiring, going to school, finishing school, relocating, recovering from an illness, bereavement, having a new baby are just some of the transitions we encounter and there is an unknown associated with them. A satisfying leisure life can help an individual take control of part of that unknown. It also gives the opportunity for choice, which is often limited in other aspects of our lives, like during our work.

Improving our relationship with leisure can also reduce job stress, improve work-related skills, increase tolerance and understanding and enhance decision-making

Q. So how do you explain all those people who don’t feel free in their lives?

A. Few of us really think about or plan for leisure. We think we should just go with the flow, but too often we end up feeling stressed, overwhelmed and unfulfilled. We need to plan for leisure – perhaps by doing one small thing every day, identifying long- and short-term leisure goals, putting enjoyable activities on the calendar – like we do other aspects of life. But before people start moving up leisure on the priority list, they need to appreciate and recognize the value and benefits of leisure, even when they have constraints (that may be internal or external). We all have obligations and other constraints that inhibit us from engaging in leisure that range from guilt to time or financial constraints. Yet the personal benefits and collective benefits short term and long term are worthwhile.

Q. So what happens when an individual goes for an extended period of time without leisure?

A. You tell me. Have you ever been burned out, depressed or overwhelmed, had stress manifest physically? Mind and body connect you know. And then think of the effect on not only you but how it affects others.

May 12, 2008

The Quest for Simple Inexpensive & Local Organic Salad Greens–YUM

Filed under: environmental ideas,helpful hints,kitchen tips — Honilima @ 11:11 pm

Matt Roth for The New York Times

May 10, 2007 : In the Garden: from the New York Times (this entire article)

It Takes a Hammer to Grow This Salad


IF you love fresh greens, there is no reason not to grow them yourself, even if you have only a tiny terrace or handkerchief lawn.

When Jon Traunfeld, a regional specialist for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, showed me his homemade salad table, I wanted one, and I wanted to put it right outside my kitchen door. It has a whole different appeal – less work! proximity! – than my big vegetable garden.

Essentially, it is a garden on wheels that you can move around, into sun or shade, a big benefit when the sun gets too hot for spinach. It’s waist-high, so people with creaky knees or bad backs can just stand there and pick a few leaves for dinner. And it’s a cinch to water and weed (not like that jungle I call my kitchen garden.)

“It also means the groundhogs and the rabbits aren’t going to bother you,” Mr. Traunfeld said, standing by his leafy table, which sits on a terrace at the extension service’s Home and Garden Information Center in Ellicott City, Md. “Though, we have two deer trapped inside our fence. If they find this, we’re sunk.”

The salad table is basically a 3-inch-deep, 11-square-foot planting box on legs. It has a hardware-cloth bottom, lined with window screening, so that water can drain but soil mix stays put. The table can be lifted by two people; better yet, if you put casters on the legs it can be rolled.

Mr. Traunfeld invented his table about a year and a half ago, after seeing something similar at an organic farm in Virginia. He has long understood the joys of fresh greens: when it’s too cold outside, he grows them under fluorescent lights in his basement.

He has been taking his salad table on the road to schools and community groups to show how easy it is to grow nutritious food right outside the door.

Last year he grew greens in full sunlight during spring and fall. In the heat of the summer he pulled the tables back into the shade. Try doing that with your vegetable garden.

“Shade isn’t a bad thing for greens, especially in the summer,” Mr. Traunfeld said. “They don’t really need direct sunlight.” In fact, in the heat of August you can grow lettuces and other salad greens in full shade. Just push that table back into the light come September.

Lettuces, arugula, bok choy, mustards and many other greens are all shallow-rooted vegetables that can thrive, believe it or not, in three inches of potting soil, especially if it’s enriched with compost. Mr. Traunfeld plants seeds of Russian kale, mizuna (a tangy Japanese green) and colorful lettuces like speckled trout, whose chartreuse leaves are splotched with maroon, and merlot, a ruffled red. Heat-resistant varieties, like oakleaf, deer tongue and Jericho, a romaine developed in Israel, are especially suited to a shallow box.

He is also growing purslane and amaranth, as well as basil and parsley; anything, in other words, that grows fast and easily in shallow soil. The greens sprout quickly in such loose soil, and will no doubt need to be thinned, in which case those little leaves may just be rinsed and tossed into a salad. As leaves mature, Mr. Traunfeld cuts them low to the base, then lets them grow again for a second cutting – the cut-and-come-again method – in a few weeks.

“You can only do that twice though, and it’s time to take them out,” Mr. Traunfeld said. “All of these plants have a life cycle, so after 60 or 70 days, they’re just going to get bitter.”

He fertilizes every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer, or relies on a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote in the planting mix.

Although his planting box is large, a small one could be placed just about anywhere, including a narrow apartment balcony.

When I commented on how beautifully simple all this was, and wondered why no one had thought of this before, Mr. Traunfeld just laughed.

“Every time I teach this workshop, somebody says, my grandmother used to take old drawers out of chests that were going to get junked, and she grew plants, either spring onions or salad greens, in a drawer,” he said. “So it’s nothing new. We’re just re-packaging it.”

Mr. Traunfeld is also recycling another ubiquitous item: the five-gallon white plastic bucket used for bulk food, which bakeries, delis and restaurants are happy to give away. Instead of just drilling holes in the bottom and filling with compost and potting soil – perfect for tomato plants with deep roots – Mr. Traunfeld turns them into self-watering containers.

It’s not complicated; just a series of trimming this, and sawing that, and drilling holes here and there. Directions for the self-watering container .

For those who want to try his movable garden, the table and trays are simple to make out of untreated framing lumber, a bit of wire mesh and window screening, and some nails, wood screws and staples. Find a handsaw, hammer and drill and you’re all set. Directions can be found at, under online publications, on growing greens with salad tables and salad boxes. The table costs about $35 to make; the tray, $8.

Mr. Traunfeld is finding that these tables are not only inspiring people to grow fresh food; they are also generating an interest in basic carpentry skills.

Since soil is too heavy and dense for these salad tables, it’s better to use a lightweight, fertile mix, in which seeds can easily germinate. Mr. Traunfeld suggested half compost, half soilless mix. But make sure both are of a good quality. You could also use pure compost, if you make it yourself, or have a reliable source. Soilless mix dries quickly in the sun; you may have to water as often as twice a day.

If you want more texture in your salad, space plants about three to four inches apart, he advised. This is a good method for mustard greens, collards and chard.

“Then the mid-ribs develop and you get a little more crunch in your salad,” he said. And you can just pick individual leaves, rather than cutting little soft ones with scissors.

These crunchy, bigger leaves are also less likely to wilt when tossed with an acid dressing made with vinegar or lemon.

Hand me the olive oil, please. Or a hammer, so that I can start on one of these tables.


Mildred had “a Dream”

Filed under: social justice — Honilima @ 1:08 am

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mildred and Richard Loving were indicted and pleaded guilty to violating Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act.

Mildred Loving’s Case Made Interracial Marriage Legal

By Jocelyn Y. Stewart

Los Angeles Times

For marrying the only man she ever loved, Mildred Loving was arrested, convicted and banished from her home state.

The Commonwealth of Virginia handed down such punishments in the 1950s to couples whose love the state did not sanction: She was black; her husband, Richard, was white; and their union was prohibited by law.

The marriage could have collapsed under the hammer of Jim Crow. Instead, the Lovings’ challenge of the law led to a Supreme Court ruling in 1967 that toppled bans on interracial marriages nationwide.

For Mrs. Loving, the issue was always simple: “I think marrying who you want is a right no man should have anything to do with,” she said in a 1967 segment of “ABC News.” “It’s a God-given right.”

Mrs. Loving, 68, died of pneumonia May 2 at her home in Central Point, Va., said her daughter, Peggy Fortune.

In 1958, when the Lovings were arrested, laws supporting segregation were falling, but half of the states still had anti-miscegenation laws, said Peter Wallenstein, a professor of history at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va. Those laws deprived Americans of the most intimate of decisions: who could be their spouse.

“This was the last piece – and it was a big piece – in the whole structure of Jim Crow,” Wallenstein said.

In Virginia’s Caroline County, where Mildred Jeter was born July 22, 1939, a 1691 statute outlawed marriage between whites and nonwhites. An 1878 law introduced a penalty of up to five years in prison and a clause: Those who married out of state, then returned to Virginia, would be treated the same as those who had married in the state.

The Lovings had done just that. The couple drove to Washington, D.C., married on June 2, 1958, then returned to Caroline County, where they moved in with Mrs. Loving’s parents.

The Lovings woke up about 2 a.m. one July night to see the sheriff and deputies surrounding their bed, shining flashlights.

Richard Loving rushed to show the men their marriage license. The sheriff was not moved. “That’s no good here,” he said.

“They told us to get up, get dressed. I couldn’t believe they were taking us to jail,” Mrs. Loving said.

The Lovings were indicted and pleaded guilty to violating the 1924 Racial Integrity Act, another version of the state’s anti-miscegenation law. Judge Leon Bazile sentenced the couple to a year in jail but suspended the sentence for 25 years on the condition they leave the state and not return together during that time.

The Lovings moved to Washington, D.C. In 1963, Mrs. Loving wrote to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kenney and asked for his help. The Justice Department referred the couple to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Lovings’ case landed at the Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, the court ruled 9-0 that Virginia’s laws were aimed at white supremacy, were unconstitutional and violated the 14th Amendment.

The couple moved back to Virginia. In 1975, Richard Loving was killed by a drunken driver in a car accident. Mildred Loving, who never remarried, died one month shy of what would have been her 50th wedding anniversary.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son, Sidney Loving, of Tappahannock, Va.; eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. A son, Donald, died in 2000.

May 11, 2008

Timeless Quotations

Filed under: Word Related — Honilima @ 12:05 am

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Why should I give them my mind as well? -Dalai Lama, when asked if he wasn’t angry at the Chinese for taking over his country. (1935- )

May 4, 2008

To Buy Organic or Non-organic?

Filed under: environmental ideas,helpful hints,kitchen tips — Honilima @ 9:21 am

If you have access to local foods and the money to pay for organic consider yourself fortunate. If you watch your grocery dollars and want to know what should be absolutely bought organic I offer this list:


A Stunning Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Filed under: Word Related — Honilima @ 1:52 am

The courage that my mother had

Went with her, and is with her still:

Rock from New England quarried;

Now granite in a granite hill.

The golden brooch my mother wore

She left behind for me to wear;

I have no thing I treasure more:

Yet, it is something I could spare.

Oh, if instead she’d left to me

The thing she took into the grave!–

That courage like a rock, which she

Has no more need of, and I have.

-Edna St Vincent Millay

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