War mentality coming back home

A really tragic and saddening story coming out of Colorado Springs this last week:

Army Spc. Kevin Shields was murdered near Fort Carson, Colo., in December after being sent home with a traumatic brain injury. The three soldiers charged with the crime all served with Shields in Iraq.

: NPR Programs: Morning Edition

It sounds like a number of issues are going on here:
1.We are short on enlistment numbers and are taking in ‘questionable’ to make up for it.
2.We have become a war hungry nation and its becoming a mindset.
3.We aren’t taking care of our Veterans or their medical conditions.

On the first point it sounds like the suspects in this case have shown a long time history of violent and racist activities. In other words we are taking potential criminals and training them to be killers. This can never be a good situation. This all goes back to our enlistment numbers dropping to their lowest levels in decades. The politicians are oblivious to this fact as a key indicator that the Iraq War is an unpopular war and that is why no one is signing up. I will die to defend my country, but I will not die for a false idea that by invading another country we are ‘bringing them democracy’. Now we are stuck in this war for many reasons that I wont go into here, and we have to fill our ranks with whomever we can get.

On the second point there is a fundamental change that occurs when you live in a society that accepts our Military forces invading and occupying a foreign country. Ask anyone about the war in Iraq and depending on the time of day you will get totally different answers. One one hand they will think of 9/11, which the politicians and the Media have cemented into our psyche as being tied to Iraq. So you will get the patriot who translates our occupation there as defending the country. On the other hand they will think about all the civilians that have died there since we arrived. This will create one of two results: In an adjusted socially conforming individual the result is sympathy and sadness. In a borderline criminal individual this creates a justification for everything they have ever thought of doing. Add military training to the second individuals repetoir and you have the makings of some bad situations.

On the third point we are seeing a largest number of injured solders come back home from any war, ever. This has completely overloaded our VA as evidenced from the report just last week that the VA is actively denying help to solders who need it. This creates a few outcomes, most notably a feeling of disenfranchisement and the fact that we have trained killers with head injuries walking around in public drinking and carrying firearms.

If you want a peek at the generation that is coming out of this war please go read this story.
Iraq Vets Charged with Murder of Fellow Soldier

Start asking questions

The press is purely an entertainment service now. I do not watch the news because I know its all about sponsorship and one topic that all sponsors abhor is the environment, because they are the ones ruining it. So it is up to us to start asking these questions. Go to your town meetings and ask what they are going to do to make sure your kids have drinking water when they have kids. Call your representatives and start asking questions about alternative energy and what they are doing about it. Find your representative here.

So how can it be that, out of 2,679 questions asked of the candidates since January 2007 by the national press, only three questions have mentioned global warming? Instead, hosts like Tim Russert, George Stephanopoulos, and Wolf Blitzer have asked ridiculous questions about UFOs, baseball, and even Chuck Norris! Do voters know better — absolutely.  : Taking the Initiative

Where is the Press?

Green and the Presidential Race

I am glad to see we are coming out of the Environmental Coma that the Bush Admin put the nation into 8 years ago. Specific politics can vary but we have to start looking at environmental issues seriously. I live in Arizona and water would seem to be a big issue here, but its not because we have the most water rights to the Colorado. So we are fat and spoiled and water runs down the streets everyday.

But Big Carbon still has plenty of resources and lots of juice. It may be their last stand, but they are not folding just yet. They will try to keep both candidates from committing themselves to environmental leadership, even if it’s clear that they both intellectually get it. So our work has just begun. We need to break through with the press, and use the next nine months to pin down the candidates, whoever they turn out to be — so that not even Big Carbon can’t keep lubricating the skids for our climate and the environment. : Taking the Initiative

Time to get involved.
A Super (Green) Tuesday

Going out with a bang

Its amazing how docile we have become about this Bush stuff. Its reached a collective point where we are so tired of it we just want to focus on who is next.

Of course, some of us may remember the charge from the incoming Bush Administration that Bill Clinton’s departing staff had trashed the White House. Those stories turned out to be fabrications — but they were an ominous harbinger of how this Administration is behaving on its way out seven years later. : Taking the Initiative

I have been an outspoken critic from the start but am dissapointed at my own lack of involvement. Well I have started to change this and am getting involved with the Sierra Club, you should too.

The Scorched Earth Begins

Get outside today!

Not shocking news, but definitely something worth noting. I run into this issue when I try to discuss environmental issues with my peers. the problem is that no one goes into nature anymore so they don’t care.

A new study finds that the number of Americans fishing, camping or engaging in other nature-based activities has substantially fallen since the late 1980s. Researchers say this fact has important implications for environmental protection.

: NPR Programs: Morning Edition

Americans Spending Less Time in Nature

Weekly recap #1?

Well I have managed to get myself somewhat overwhelmed with all the extracurriculars I have picked up. Its amazing how fast the days go when you are keeping busy with stuff that is interesting.

I made my first Toastmasters, which was very cool indeed.

Last week was the first week of youth soccer, its called the Lil’ Hammers, and Sunday marked the first game of the league I am playing in: the Rio Salado Adult Soccer League or RSASL (quite possibly the worst acronym ever). ‘So, uh, what league are you playing in?’ ‘Oh, uh, that would be, um, oh, um … never-mind.’ More to come in that as it progresses, needless to say its a total riot.

My sister, Caroline, and brother in-law, Brian, were in for the week and left on Thursday, which sucked cause they just started being useful around the house. Brian and I went golfing on the prior Saturday and I had a really good time. It was quite perfect out for January in Chandler and we hung out with Chris the Plumbing Contractor whose business was slowed down a bit. Turns out most of his business was in new builds and those disappeared pretty completely and quickly. Way to diversify yourself my man. Nice enough guy anyway though. I cooked for them a couple of times and they repaid the favor with Zipp’s pizza and Rigatonis which was very kind of them. They weren’t such fans of Zipp’s but thats fine, their loss.

Made it to Yoga four times and went for my last run for a while. The knee is not liking the cold weather and wants to play stiff and not super comfortable. So now I am throwing some plyrometrics in with long walks. We shall see.

Eating has been going well. Did some stir-fry the other night and it was just like a restaurant’s only when they overdo the chicken and its a little dry. In a wok at high heat add 1 Tablespoons of Ginger minced, 2 Tablespoons of Garlic minced, cook them in 2 Tablespoons of Peanut Oil for 15 seconds and then throw in 2 medium sliced Onions and stir for 5 minutes and remove. Add another tablespoon of Peanut Oil and reduce heat to medium. Add a tablespoon of garlic and 1 pound of chicken breast chopped into 1/2 inch cubes. Go back to high heat and stir for 5 minutes or less, or till chicken no longer pink in center. go too far and get dry tough chicken, not so tasty. Add back the vegetables and a few cups of chopped bok choy along with 2 tablespoons of Fish Sauce. Mix and then add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and reduce water in pan. Eat and enjoy. (A quick word on heat: experiment, you might not need to have it all the way to high, just most of the way. Get it hot enough to do its thing, but don’t burn everything. Also stir a lot.)

Opening Pandora’s box

I almost wrote this horrible article on Search Engine Optimization but got 20% into it and wanted to stab myself. Then I realized I really needed to make mention of this website called Pandora.com.

If you haven’t heard of it then you arent spending enough time on Internet. If you have heard of it but aren’t completely addicted to it then you need to have another look, I suggest doing it now. Just go to the site and enter in a song or artist that you like and, via the Music Genome Project, Pandora creates a ‘Station’ that is based around various critera that are determined by much more than I expected as explained in this PC Mag article:
The program makes connections between songs, based on the findings of a team of 35 analysts who have rated over 400,000 songs on hundreds of different criteria—including vocals, lyrics, harmonies, tempo, instrumentation, mood, and inflections—that link them to genres or eras, without the actual genre labels. Pandora’s founder, Tim Westergren, also founded the Music Genome Project, which created an analytical process that identifies a song’s similarities and differences, in essence, its DNA.

After you listen for a few songs it will have you setup a profile, which is free as in beer, and just leave it on all the time. As you go along you can tell it what you like and more importantly what you do not like. You can bookmark or buy a song. You can learn more about the song or artist or album. Its really quite enlightening.

Naturally the social networking aspect of things happens and you can hook up with friends just like on myspace and facebook, but now its just about music. You can invite them via email or just search for them. My id is roger5800 so feel free to look me up. I am still just starting our so am well short of the 100 station max but I am working on it everyday.

So now when you read about a band or someone mentions it you just go to your Pandora and plug them in and bam you get them and a whole cadre of bands that you have probably never heard of, ever, in, your, life, before.

Oh and now I have to get me some of these:squeezebox and this.

Packing a Lunch

For the last few months I have made a conscious effort to pack my lunch everyday. The first reason for this is health. Eating out is just not healthy mainly because restaurants are not making food for it to be good for you, they are making food that tastes good so that people will keep coming back. The second reason is that most of the time I make much better tasting food, and the third reason is that it saves me a ton of money and time.

For a lot of people cooking is a total pain in the ass. Its just something that we don’t do in the USA. This is the land of the cheeseburger and the drive-through. Of course this is now evolving into the Subway sandwich, which after working in one for a few months in college isn’t much better. The trick is to find a few things that you like to eat and that are easy to prepare.

Here are a few ideas that I use:

  1. Chicken Breast with roasted veggies РOn Sunday take 5 chicken breasts and cook them however you like best. I prefer to grill but will saut̩ them on occasion. Then take a few potatoes, celery stalks, carrots, and onions and chop them into 1 inch parts. Coat them with Olive Oil, salt, and pepper and put into a casserole dish. Toss this into the oven at 400F for 40 minutes or until they start to brown. You can then package these up and microwave at the office. Add Cheese if you want.
  2. Crock-pot Chicken with veggies – This is something I have just started and am kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Buy a cheap crock-pot from walmart or get one at goodwill. A 2 quart is good size if you are single or a couple, you may want larger if there are children. This recipe assumes a 2 quart crock-pot. Chop up your veggies like in the roasted recipe but a little smaller, think quarter inch thickness. My sister had the great recommendation of putting the potatoes on the bottom! Then cut one large chicken breast up into 1/2 chunks and put on top of everything. Add a half cup of rice, I go with brown rice cause its much better for you. Add some spices, I like sage and pepper a 1/2 teaspoon of each, but you can experiment here. Then add 5 cups of Chicken Broth, this is the critical ingredient but try to get the Organic stuff as it will have less sodium and other junk in it. Chicken Broth is the secret ingredient in cooking. Anytime a recipe asks for water use chicken broth and you will amaze your family and friends at how good a cook you are (don’t try this with oatmeal though, yuck). Set the crock-pot on Low and 7 hours later you have an awesome chicken soup/stew. I do this when I get home late from Toastmasters or Yoga and turn it on at 10pm and by the time I am done with this article its ready to go. I take 2 servings to work and have some at 11pm and then at 3pm.
  3. Sandwiches – By far the easiest food in the world to make. Start off easy and make a PBnJ, you remember how don’t you? For an advanced technique change the Peanut Butter with Almond Butter. It costs a bit more but you can bargain hunt and the health benefits are huge. Then move onto the more advanced sandwiches: turkey, ham, roast beef, etc. Throw some spinach, tomato, sprouts, avocado, onion, and mustard on there. Try out a different type of bread each week. Rye bread is supposed to have a ton of healthy stuff in it, go for the marbled. If you add a dash of salt and pepper to your sandwich you will spice things up very nicely, but be sparing, especially if preparing for someone else.

The other thing to consider is snacks. I have been working on eating smaller portions but this means I need to eat more often. The best thing to have is Fruits, Nuts, and Veggies which I stock up on throughout the week and take a bagful into work with me everyday. If you go with seasonal choices the prices will be lower and they will be much tastier as they are fully ripened. I will eat 1-2 bananas a day, 3-4 apricots, a handful of almonds, a carrot, and a celery stalk. Find what works for you. I also throw in a cup of Soy Yogurt for the protein and to change things up.

Here are some other good articles:
Zen Habits on the Brown Bag
Brown Bag Lunches
Rediscovering the Homemade Lunch