Archive for March 31, 2014

Walmart’s Not-So-Super Market

If you think that Walmart has good deals, you haven’t visited their supermarket or read the results of the Consumer Reports survey of their subscribers.  Those surveyed complained that items are often out of stock and that there are too few check-outs.  The produce and meat are of low quality, as well.  As for those supposedly low prices, think again; survey respondents found that prices are just as low or even lower at other supermarket chains.  Yes, they, like many others, do a product match.  However, if you’ve ever tried to cash in on that at any store you knows that the product must be published in the other store’s current ad and be the exact size, type, and brand for the price-match to be honored, and that happens rarely.

Overall, although Walmart is the largest grocer, those surveyed rated them at the very bottom of all of the grocers.  I can’t help thinking that if these complaints are true of the grocery department, what does that say about the policies and workings of all their other departments?

I admit that I dislike Walmart—I don’t approve of their mistreatment of workers and their hiring/firing practices, among other human rights issues.  Now I have one more reason to avoid the place.



Earth Hour–Nothing to Make Light Of

It’s happening now, wherever 8:30 PM local time arrives for you.  People are turning off their lights for an hour in solidarity for working toward a sustainable future.  This year’s participants are expected to include more than 7,000 cities and 150 countries on all continents.

Turning off the lights is only a symbol, of course, but this annual event (8 years old) really is having an effect.  One year, 35,000 American Girl Scouts were inspired to go into their community and install 132,141 energy-efficient light bulbs.  The former president of Botswana organized to plant 100,000 trees in devastated areas.

Participate by turning off all lights tonight 8:30 – 9:30.  Yes, all lights, including the TV and phone.  Join with others to acknowledge the fact that all of us together need to work on saving our not-inexhaustible resources and keeping our Earth healthy for future generations.





Older People Too Smart for their Own Good

[Maybe it’s my age, but this article from The Telegraph makes sense to me. Thanks to Verne Meade for sending me this.]

Brains of elderly slow because they know so much

The brains of older people only appear to slow down because they have so much information to compute, much like a full-up hard drive, scientists believe.
Older people do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information in their brains, scientists believe.
Much like a computer struggles as the hard drive gets full up, so to do humans take longer to access information, it has been suggested.
Researchers say this slowing down it is not the same as cognitive decline.




What’s the Difference?

Today’s short Thoughtful Thursday quote reminds us of the impact we can make:

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.”  (William James)



Poisoned Lawns: An Eco-Terrorist’s Stupidity

I’m very, very pro-environment, but I’m disgusted by our local eco-terrorists.  Sometimes their actions seem minor, affecting only a few people–like their recent poisoning of lawns in my hometown of San Jose, CA.  Some thirty homeowners watched as their front lawns died away.

Okay, so there’s no proof that it’s the work of eco-terrorists.  But some people in this area of town have had this happen several times, and the large portions of dead lawns, with some areas still living, exclude a dog with an overactive bladder or the result of the drought.  Teens just having fun?  All the teens I know would have been bored by the second hit and have moved onto some other game.  On the other hand, eco-terrorists believe that all lawns are bad (ecologically speaking, they are NOT wrong) and that it’s their duty to teach lawn-freaks a lesson (there they ARE wrong).

I don’t see the perpetrators stepping up and saying, “Now that you’ve learned your lesson we’ll help you dig up and haul away the contaminated grass, bring in soil that will   sustain plant life, and work with you to design and plant a more eco-friendly garden.”  Nor do I hear them say that they’ll chip in to pay the $5,000 it will cost one homeowner to fix what they did.  Now that I think of it, I also don’t hear them volunteering to put the contaminated soil into their own yards rather than the dump or elsewhere, maybe because they know they can’t grow veggies in it or plant suitable habitat-plants.

They’re not making a point; they’re just being childish, selfish, unthinking, and criminal.  Plus, they’re defeating their supposed purpose by removing oxygen-producers and contaminating the Earth they claim to defend.



For Busy Chocolate-Lovers

Happy news for us chocoholics! A study in England showed that employees who were given chocolate or shown videos of stand-up comics were actually 12% more productive.  OK, all you parents anticipating biting off chocolate bunny ears in a few weeks–your excuse is that you have a whole bunch of stuff to get done.




Enabling Summer (in a Few Years)

If you enjoy visiting landmarks but, like me, have a disability or family member with one, here’s good news: our national landmarks are upgrading their access.  A good example is the Golden Gate National Recreational Center in San Francisco, which thousands of people with disabilities visit (or try to) each year.  Soon there will be signs in Braille, audio directions, trails and beaches with wheelchair access, and guided tours specifically geared toward disabled visitors.  We’ll be able to enjoy touring Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods, Lands End, Marin Headlands, Ocean Beach—most of the 75,000 acres of shore and woods that are part of Golden Gate.  We’ll be able to bask in a sunny, salty breeze on the beach, glory in a gorgeous sunset, cringe at where prisoners lived, maybe even hug a tree, if we’re so inclined (I admit that I am so inclined and have frequently engaged in that activity).

If it can happen at America’s largest national urban park, it can happen to all of them, including one near you or on your vacation itinerary.  At least, thanks to the settlement of a long, drawn-out lawsuit regarding access, that’s what should happen.  Of course, the Park Service has until Sept. 2019 to comply, but some improvements should start showing up soon—in time for this summer, I hope.




Happy Happy Day–How to Spend It

A hint about how to spend the U.N. International Day of Happiness (today):



I’m NOT Un-American!

Some of you are upset with me because my post on Tunisia (yesterday, 3/18) indicates that I’m un-American.  I pointed out that we haven’t achieved all of what Tunisia just put into place.  Let’s look at those principles I’m concerned about.

Guaranteed Equality Between Men and Women—First there’s the fact that not all states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.  Three more states (to bring it up to the required minimum of 38) are needed to add it to the U.S. Constitution.  Second, look at the disparity between what a man and a woman earns for doing the same job.

A constitutional mandate for environmental protection—We are NOT one of the few countries in the world with this (they are Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and Tunisia, with provisions by India, as well).  Heck, we’re still debating whether the climate is changing!

Protection from Torture—We still practice torture; we just make sure that we don’t do it on American soil.

We’re not perfect, and Tunisia will discover how hard those goals are to achieve.

I’m not un-American.  Rather, I’m pro the more just, equal America that our ideals proclaim.



Democracy in Tunisia & the U.S.

Recently Tunisia passed a truly historic constitution widely heralded as a progressive and monumental document. 

Here’s just some of what these brave elected representatives agreed upon in the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions of their parties:

  • Guaranteed equality between men and women
  • A constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so
  • A declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen
  • democracy with civil laws that respects freedom of religion
  • An established right to due process and protection from torture

 [Unfortunately, the U.S. falls short on some of these goals.  Let’s hope we and Tunisia can truly achieve all of them soon.]

In one stroke, Tunisia’s become more democratic than many Western countries have been for years. 

This is a revolution of democracy and a great victory for human rights — and the more we recognize that, the more Tunisia can shine as an example for the Western and the Arab world!