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Today is blog action day and the topic is water. About two thirds (2/3) of our planet is covered with water and yet many people do not have access to clean water. Of all the water on the planet only about one percent is fresh water than we can drink and we are continually polluting that water. [Note: These numbers and figures differ slightly depending on which authority you get the numbers from — I picked conservative numbers.]

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Many of today’s blogs will probably deal with the facts and figures of water, water contamination, pollution, and the need for clean water. I’m going to talk about me — after all this is my blog.

Before we moved to our present house, my husband and I lived in cities and water was no problem — it was just there unless the water main broke. Water to drink. Water to cook with. Water to wash with. Water to flush toilets. Water for house plants. It was just there. In some places it didn’t taste quite right so we got a Britta filter — problem solved.

Then fast forward to our present house and we have a well. Our house sits on 5 acres with its own well and septic system. Now we had to think about water and sewage. We have to be careful what we flush down the toilet because it’s going to go through the septic system and back out into the groundwater — hopefully clean again. If you put the wrong stuff in, the system may not work and that’s an expensive proposition of pumping it out, and so on.

But drinking water hasn’t been a problem. The well is deep and the water has been tested and is safe to drink. There’s an electric pump that brings the water up from that deep well and into the house. No electricity means no water.

A few years back, a hurricane knocked out the power and we were without water for over a week. No pump, no water. Earlier that year we’d bought a rain barrel which sat under a drain pipe from the roof. We’d been using that water to water the garden so we wouldn’t be stressing the well. With no electricity, we could use that water to flush the toilet but it wasn’t drinkable. We had to travel and buy water at stores; an expensive proposition when you needed water for everything — drinking, cooking, washing dishes, washing us.

That experience really made us appreciate just how reliant we were on technology. I remembered staying at a camp when I was a kid that had a hand-pump to bring water into the kitchen sink. But, electric pumps have replaced that in our lives and now without electricity we’re without many of the basics we take for granted — one of which is water.

Now, think about the many people living on this planet who can’t buy clean water. People who need to collect water from rivers, streams, rain barrels and then take their chances drinking it that it won’t make them sick — or kill them. We’re not talking fancy smart waters or flavored waters — just plain clean, disease and parasite free, water. 42000 people die each week from drinking unclean water. Think about that — that’s twenty times the population of the little town I grew up in in Maine. That’s every week just because they lack clean drinkable water.

Humans need water to survive. I’ve heard, but haven’t verified, that you can survive longer without food than you can without water. Yet, we treat our planet as if all its resources are infinite. They are not. While water is in many ways renewable because it can be treated, filtered by the ground, evaporated and returned via rain, it’s not a perfect system in the face of humanities every increasing abuse of our planet and its resources.

In my family we do what we can to help. We use rain barrels and recaptured water for gardening. We try not to buy bottled water and instead use our own water in reusable water bottles whenever possible. When we do buy, we try to buy where some of the money goes toward clean water programs. We try to put our efforts and money into programs and actions that will help everyone sharing the planet with us.

We’re all on this planet together and it’s about time we all spent a bit of time thinking about how we use it and how we can help others to have the basic necessities of life and the most basic of these is clean drinking water.

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Cover of Julie & JuliaI noticed that today would have been Julia Child’s birthday. I remember seeing her on TV when her cooking show was new and I was young. I remember her voice and the fact that she made it look like no matter what happened, or what went wrong, it was okay, because who’d know what went on in your kitchen if the guests were all in the living room. I have to wonder what she’d think of the popularity of open floor plans where your guests gather around the kitchen island and watch you get dinner ready. Somehow I doubt that it would bother her.

Last week we finally watched Julie & Julia based on the book by Julie Powell. Powell wrote a blog where she cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, in a period of 365 day making 524 recipes. You can still read the blog online — the Julie / Julia Project. The last post is about when Julie heard that Julia Child died. (Amazon has the book available in paperback with a look inside so you can get a taste of the writing.)

Julia Child was an amazing woman. She did so much at a time when women were so circumscribed in what they should or shouldn’t do with their lives. If you haven’t seen the movie here’s the trailer — maybe you’ll decided it’s a must see too.

I thought the movie was informative and affirming. I like cooking and I’m no great chef — I’m more a plain home cooking type with once in a great while a foray into making something fancy. I admire Julie Powell for working her way through all those recipes — that’s a lot of work, especially when holding down a full-time job. Seems there are lots of daring women in the world we just need to keep our eyes and ears open.

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Sometimes during the bleakness of not being able to come up with the right words, you find yourself wandering the corridors of the internet and you find something that … well, I’ll let you be the judge.

I got to admit that this one has something going for it that many of the vampire, zombie, werewolf mashup don’t — it completely skips trying to fit in with any actual books and goes for the plight of women in 1810 in high society.

Comments? Thoughts? Is violence ever the answer to boredom?

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Today my laptop decided to take the day off.  I didn’t know that’s what it had in mind.  I was working along thinking I’d do a few more things and then take a short break and up pops a low battery warning.  Now, I’ve got the ‘ol laptop plugged into the UPS which is plugged into the house circuit so no worries.  I keep on working.

I enter a stack of books into the database and between books this low battery warning keeps popping up.  So, I stop and check all the connections and everything is plugged in solid.  Sometimes you see my feet and those dangling cords sort of have their own battle.  But all is as it should be.  Keep on working.

Up pops a notice that the laptop is going into some sort of mode to help me conserve power.  What the?  I check the cords again.  Everything is fine.  This time I’m on my hands and knees under the desk checking the entire length of each cord — from laptop to the power brick and the  brick to the UPS.  Yup all the cords in and plugged in solid not wobbly.  I even checked to make sure the UPS was plugged in but knew it was because the printer and the lamp was working fine.

Okay, weird but not critical but I’m thinking I’ll start a backup just in case.  Close all the programs and start the backup.  Grab a book to read while it’s running and I get a Skype just as I get a message from the laptop telling me it’s shutting down soon.  Send word I’m going to be offline and hit send.  Black screen and a beep.

Try to turn it back on.  Dead. Nothing.  Nada. Okay.  What’s there to do but make tea and grab a book and pretend it’s my break.  I tried several times throughout the day to push the power button hoping it would some up.  Nothing.  Finally, Hyperion gets home from work and I tell him about the problem and ask if we should buy a new brick — last time this happened it was a bad power brick.  He says maybe I missed something and he follows the cords all fine and dandy and then pulls out the cords to pull them out in the light to see that they look fine and not broken or scuffed, plugs them back in and powers up.

Everything is fine.  My laptop sits here with this smug look of satisfaction.  I think it just wanted a day off.  I don’t know why it couldn’t just send me a memo requesting the day off.  I think it might be developing sentience and if not that it’s at least developing an attitude.

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It’s a Saturday after a WSFA Meeting at a pet filled home and a long night of trying to breathe. This made me laugh. I hope it perks up your day.

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Sherlock Holmes, Dec. Release film
Sherlock Holmes is and was a fictional character created by Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle. According to wikipedia, Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print in 1887.

During the Christmas holidays, a new Sherlock Holmes film was released in theaters. Directed by Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes was played by Robert Downey Jr., while Jude Law and Rachel McAdams played Dr. Watson and Irene Adler. Many fans of Sherlock Holmes were upset by the film because this is not the Holmes they were expecting. The plot is a bit wild but within the acceptable canon. Holmes however is more scruffy and common than most people expected.

Personally, I thought that he was closer to the Holmes I thought he was when I first read the books as a child. This Holmes could disguise himself as a laborer and get away with it. He could mingle on all class levels and blend in. That, however, doesn’t mean that he couldn’t dress up and appear in the highest levels of British society and also fit in smoothly since, as I mentioned, he could blend in on all levels. Holmes adapts and the only thing he can’t stand is boredom and ignorance. So, take a chance and see the movie, whether you like it or not will depend on your inner vision of Sherlock Holmes.

The second major complaint that I heard/read was that there was paranormal and magical aspects in a Sherlock Holmes film. Tsk. Tsk. In point of fact, Sherlock Holmes doesn’t believe in magic or the paranormal. He attacks the problem in his own way looking for clues and facts. While the movie appears to have real magic occurring, never once does Holmes say it is so. By the end of the movie you’ll know what Holmes does, and that changes how you view what you’ve already seen. Again, strictly canon in the Holmesian universe.

10 Facts about Sherlock Holmes on FactsMonk.

For my own Holmes adventure, Hyperion and I were traveling from hither and yon and managed, as we usually do, to get lost. However, we found Gillette Castle State Park. It’s in East Haddam, Connecticut and was the home of William Gillette who played Sherlock Holmes on Broadway and for years it was his image that was used as that of Holmes in magazines, books, and other print media. Gillette was a bit of an inventor and the castle has some interesting features. The one that’s relevant to this post is that he had a room set up to look like 221B Baker Street including the VR in the wall made by bullet holes. If you’re ever in the area in Connecticut, check it out. It’s high on a bluff overlooking the river. There’s a ferry that makes trips across the river and the view of the castle from the ferry is spectacular. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find our photos of the visit so here’s one from the Gillette State Park site.)

I loved the books when I was in my early teens. I liked them even more when I was in my twenties and could appreciate the convoluted plots and Holmes’ dry wit. But I guess what I continue to like is the reliance on facts before hypothesis that Holmes insisted on. My favorite line is the one, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” This is even more astounding when you realize that Doyle fell for just about every scam that was about in his day — he was a stanch supporters of the girls who claimed to have fairies in the bottom of their garden, for example. But Doyle managed to have Holmes believe only in facts, science, and what he himself could deduce from clues.

In recent years, many authors have been writing stories using the Holmes character. I’ve reviewed several. Most remain true to the character as it was developed by Doyle. Even if they bring in paranormal appearing events, they manage to have Holmes stand true to his motto: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Celebrate the birthday of Sherlock Homes. Read a mystery.

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I don’t like to use universal terms such as all women, or even most women. So, I’ll just say when I was growing up I had some problems with the fact that I wasn’t as “pretty” or “girly” as I was told I should be. At a fairly young age, I decided to just be me. It’s mostly worked, except for those days when the niggling doubts and insecurities raise their heads. But as I get older that doesn’t happen quite as often and I handle it better.

However, many young women and girls are still raised with certain expectations and I’m hoping this video will help you look at the word “pretty” in a new way. Hopefully, it will give you a new lease on life and since it’s the start of a new year maybe it’s a good time for Katie Makkai, a veteran poetry slammer, to give us a new definition of the word “pretty”, and to get you thinking about the really important things in life.

Think about and go out and be pretty amazing, pretty witty, pretty darn smart, and anything you want to be.

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I saw this quote today:

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” – Marcel Pagnol

Well, I got thinking that really this is very close to the saying: You’re as happy as you make up your mind to be. Which is a paraphrase of a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway, both of them got me thinking about how our attitudes effect us and those around us. Thinking about how,  when I have a bad night and don’t sleep and I start my day grumpy, it tends to stay that way. However, if I somehow see something or meet someone that makes me smile, the day makes a change from that point on. There was a meme going about a while ago that said that you should smile at someone and make them happy for the rest of the day. People complained that that was just to simplistic.

Thinking back on the holiday season, and often during it, I notice that people are nicer to each other during this time of the year. They smile more and are far more courteous that normally when they’re wrapped up in their lives and their problems. So, I’m thinking I’m going to try harder this year to be happy and make those around me happy too.

I challenge each of you to be nice to one person a day during this coming year. That means giving someone a genuine, “Hello”. Or, just letting someone cut in front of you on the road or in a store line — with a smile and “that’s okay”. Take the time to notice the world and the people around you and appreciate the sunshine, the rain, the wind (which right now is howling outside my window), and the sunsets.

To get you in the mood to try this “be happy” attitude, here’s Bobby McFerrin’s YouTube video, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. I can’t embed that one so go and watch it, but here’s Bob Marley, with the same song:

Try to start every day, happy to be.

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