Saturday, February 19, 2011

A reminder about the history of the budget as context for the histrionics over the deficit

Let some truth be told. 
This is a clip from the Newshour and it is important.  Mark Shields walks us back over recent history and reminds us of the facts. 

I need to remember we had a national budget surplus not  long ago and that those who now protest so violently about the deficit seem to have a very different vision of what is good for America. Listening to the threats to dissemble health care reform, planned parenthood, public broadcasting, and most public workers jobs is unbelievable and sad. Am I being asked to accept that I may enter my 80th year working at Walmart sans health insurance watching my grandchildren attend an ever declining education system?  If so then why o why must they also take away public radio?

Make a fuss, do not let the chanting of untruth overwhelm good sense and kindness.
We must not let our best programs and social supports be taken apart as waste or non-essential. I want a government, I want to contribute to joint action, I want nurses and teachers, public health workers, and to know my country has a plan that is more detailed and thoughtful than "Cut funding". To know if our government is too big then we need to talk about what we expect it to do. If we say we cannot afford something then it is because we have chosen not to either because we don't want to afford it or we have decided something else is more important.  In the recent budget wrangling it is clear that cutting taxes for higher income people is more important than education, heat assistance, secure aging, and public health.

I would like to know what the vision is for people who are old, cannot work, lost their retirement savings to wall street, and now have a medical condition that their insurance will not cover. If there is a plan that does not punish these people but provides some semblance of kindness and support now would be a good time to start talking about it.  The strident repetition of slogans about socialism, big government, and the President give me the willies. Fear mongering is not a plan. Taking the government apart sounds more like treason than fiscal responsibility.  In this case, here in the US, we are supposed to be nation building.
Mr Boehner stop telling me about what you are going to take apart and talk about a specific series of steps that will be taken to invest in America.  How shall my grandchildren live and will they still be paying for or fighting in the fake war?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Keystone Species and Ecosystem engineers -- you too can be one

Prairie dogs
First, of all, hello. I am (Andra) working with Sharon helping her to keyword images for Mother-Daughter Press. I look at pictures and think about what words all of you might use to find them. I think about scientists, students, greeting card designers, art folks, and everyone else.

One thing I love about the task is finding out something I never knew about an animal or plant. I find that I look at the world differently, thinking about the picture out my window or how I would keyword the view on my run.

A few weeks ago, I keyworded an image of a starfish, I think this one:

I looked it up on google, trying to find the Latin name, something we try to always include, and found out something far more interesting about starfish. They are a keystone species. A what?

Keystone species have a disproportionate affect on their ecosystem, they play an important role in maintaining the structure of that ecosystem. You may have heard about indicator species, who like canaries in the mine, indicate the overall health of the ecosystem. Keystone species actually help to maintain the health of that system.

There are several different ways in which species can be keystones. They can be predators, mutualists, or engineers. Predators control the population of a species that would otherwise overtake the ecosystem. Mutualists are partners in a relationship that is crucial to the ecosystem, and engineers are the most amazing of all!

Engineers change the ecosystem. They transfer nutrients from the ocean to the forest (bears),
Brown bear-- an ecosystem engineer
build lakes (beavers), prevent runoff and erosion (prairie dogs), and clear land so other species have space to graze (elephants).
Elephants-- effective ecosystem engineers-- clear land
This is the kind of thing that derails me from keywording and sends me into the rabbit hole of google, and it's the kind of thing that I keep thinking about hours later.

What would happen if we recognized ourselves as engineers? As a keystone species that has the ability to maintain or destroy the planet? Would we change our behavior more quickly if we held ourselves to the stewardship standard set for us by prairie dogs?

I can only hope so.

[Sharons note: I love it we have keywords and keystone species-- a meta-theme emerges about connectedness across and within systems and the keys that serve as bridges or nodes. So, a key word or phrase for starfish might be keystone species.

For some more fun on this topic check out
-- Oysters as engineers-- they clean bays and oceans (see TED video-- oysters as architects and engineers TED.
--Prairedog talk on Radiolab short - radiolab & prariedog

Maybe some of the silly circular talk about climate change would be different if we asked if we are ecosystem engineers? And then, described all the ways that looks and could be different if we got very good at understanding the systems.

Thanks very much, Andra!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Whee! Photoshelter features "11 great walkways"

Stepping stone path through blooming Vinca minor or periwinkle
I got this notice from Photoshelter -- the folks who manage websites for a large collection of photographers. 

Hi Sharon,

Hope all is well with you. I'm getting in touch to let you know that one of your images is featured in our recent "11 Great Photos ofPathways and Walkways" blog post:
Great photos of pathways and walkways

....We try to recognize the exceptional work of our members. We love your photos, and look forward to seeing more of them in the future!


meghan grosso | marketing coordinator | photoshelter inc
212.206.0808 x3325 | |

What a treat and great news for Mother-Daughter Press.! So, in the spirit of walkways, paths, circumnavigation, perambulation and vacillando here are a few more photos.

Cairn on the path

Scalloped brick walkway and a Mexican pot
The MKT rails to trails project in Columbia Missouri
Shade garden path past hobbit birdhouse made of Cedar

Paving stones through pink garden

Being the guerilla gardener that she was Gay made many paths
so if you want to see more go to the website and put "path" in the searchbar
There are many fun and gorgeous images

Wherever your path takes you 
may it have much beauty and 
times when the going is easy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

To Stories from Mogadishu and responses from Vermont

We have been enriched by a conversation with new friends in Africa and one of the topics has been snow. They live at the equator and have an idea of snow that has charmed us here and made us laugh. So this video is for them to give them a sense of snow.

If you haven't heard it yet check out "The story" and Messages from Mogadishu.  This is citizen journalism at its best.  Our response back via this lighthearted video may seem trivial in light of the difficulties there. How can we laugh or complain about the snow when their lives are so constrained and difficult? I don't know how to balance these things, I just know that all I can offer are authentic responses and images of my life.  Sometimes "help" comes as humor, sometimes as questions and always listening.

The reporter, a young man called Abdi, encouraged by Dick Gordon from the radio program "The Story", has gained a voice, an audience, and in our case friends and supporters. This affection and concern has spread and includes his family spread far and wide who worry for him and help him. Abdi, through Dick Gordon and Paul Salopek, an award-winning journalist from Chicago, has begun a conversation with our family, friends and a community of public radio listeners, that makes the far-flung country of Somalia much more pressing and real. Everyday we try to cast a net of safety and connectedness over him. This type of reporting is amazing and life-changing.

Listen. If you want to support The Story or Abdi please do.