February 5th, 2007

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Good Morning!!

The moon is still an orb in the sky.

I receive a Live Journal comment from an anonymous person that Anna Quindlen did not speak at Villanova University in 1999 and has not spoken there at all.  I google her and the university and learn that she was scheduled to give the 1999 commencement address but declined due to her views on abortion.  It appears that she did speak there on June 23, 2000.

I must admit I did watch the Super Bowl.  I turned it on at 3:30 figuring it would be half-way over, but no, I caught the very beginning.  We did record it so we could fast-forward through the commercials which did not appear too impressive this year.  Steve was born in Indianapolis and I in Chicago,  so it was fun to root for both teams and enjoy every good play.  I still feel badly about the damage to the players and I must admit to enjoying the game.

In the book True North, Elliot Merrick writes of how surprised some of the people he meets in Labrador are when he tells them he has "walked by ten thousand people in one morning and not spoken to one of them."   This was before 1930 in NY city and I consider on that even now  Ten thousand people?  Is it possible?   Perhaps.   See if you can pull out a few of those you pass today and speak of sun and moon and what stirs the mead warming the kettle inside.
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Villanova University -

These are the commencement speakers listed on the web-site for Villanova University, so I am unclear where Anna Quindlen gave the speech said to be given there.  One wonders what the Big Bird actor might have to say.   Wise words, I suppose, as Big Bird is wise on Sesame Street.

Commencement speakers

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speaking of Anna Quindlen -

Here is a column by Anna Quindlen on the importance of writing the details of our lives for ourselves, for our family and friends.  Write in your journal today or begin one.   This will inspire you in doing so.  You can google Newsweek, then find Anna Quindlen and her column Write for Your Life, January 22, 2006.


Here is a quote from the article that rings true to me.

     As the novelist Don DeLillo once said, "Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals."

Find happiness in writing the details of your lives today.  Joy and simmering calls!!

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What one person can do -

Lifting up Tibet's women
UC Davis grad finds herself -- and a life's work

Patricia Yollin, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, February 5, 2007


On Thursday night, Michelle Kleisath will return to the Walnut Creek high school that she graduated from almost eight years ago. She will talk about how to start a yak-lending program and how to bring solar electricity to nomads, and she'll probably mention that the Tibetan word for woman means "born low."

Being exceedingly modest, she probably won't discuss something that will become obvious very fast: One tenacious and caring individual can make an enormous difference in many people's lives.

Kleisath resides in a part of the world that some people call China and others call Tibet, depending on their politics. That's where the money from her Las Lomas High fundraiser will end up. Even a tiny amount will transform lives -- a subject Kleisath knows something about at this point, starting with herself.

"My perspective changed radically when I took a gender studies class at UC Davis," said Kleisath, who turned 26 last month. "I was actually a cheerleader in high school."

She is co-founder and executive director of the Shem Women's Group, a nonprofit organization in Xining, China (or the old Ando province of Tibet), that relies on small-scale, grassroots development to make life better for impoverished Tibetans.

"It is truly about women," said Vincanne Adams, a medical anthropologist at UCSF Medical Center who has worked in the Himalayas since 1982. "They are doing projects that directly benefit women in rural Tibet. They're not coming in with poverty alleviation schemes where the agenda comes down from the top. These are one project at a time, one village at a time. By example, they're showing what women can do."

The residents of Heluoshi village have received 110 solar cookers. A concrete bridge in Me Re Ma Township makes it easier to cross the Ra Chu River. Sixty milking yaks provide the elders of the Jemda area with a steady income. Thirty aluminum milk churners in Fudi village have replaced old wooden ones.

"The wooden churns are really inconvenient to move when we change our grazing grassland," said Samtsogye, 24, who like most Tibetans uses one name, in an e-mail interview from China. "And the wooden churns are very difficult to replace, since now the wood is so expensive. To solve these problems and to create a leisure time for the village women and let them make a high income, I did this project."

Other changes have been less tangible but just as lasting.

"When I was growing up, there were more boy students than girls," said Pagbatso, 23, by phone from Portland, Ore., where she is a sophomore at Reed College. "There's still an idea that it's not important for girls to get an education. Tibetan girls are really shy, but I started to speak up in gender studies class and then I felt a little more comfortable to speak up in other classes."

Pagbatso grew up in a nomadic family in Gansu province and won a competition that took her to Qinghai Normal University, where Kleisath was teaching.

Although Kleisath's childhood in Contra Costa County was vastly different from Pagbatso's in the Gannan autonomous Tibetan prefecture, gender studies had the same cataclysmic effect on both of them.

"Before, I always don't believe in myself," said Pagbatso. "Afterward, I wanted to look for chances. I started to pursue my education rather than receiving whatever was given to me."

Kleisath, recalling the class she took during her first year at UC Davis, said, "I felt like I woke up, and that I'd been asleep my whole life. I could see how many ways I had held myself back because I was a woman."

She majored in Spanish and gender studies, spent her junior year in Madrid and resolved to try something new and different when she graduated from college in June 2003. Two months later, she moved to China, joining the Volunteers in Asia program.

"That's what I learned in gender studies," Kleisath said. "You can really learn a lot about yourself by exploring the unfamiliar."

To make a living, she taught English and sociology at the Qinghai Normal University and then proposed a new course as well -- an all-female gender studies class.

"Most of my students would have their heads down, staring at their shoes. You could barely hear them," Kleisath said. "Once I started teaching the gender class, teachers reported it was making a huge difference. Their confidence skyrockets -- it's not what I'm teaching them, it's the space we create."

After the first year, Kleisath started to get complaints.

"They felt like they needed to do something to show women were capable," she said. "They asked if I could show them how to do it. It wasn't enough to just talk about it."

Kleisath didn't know a thing about small-scale development, but she did research and put together a workshop. Sixty women came to the first meeting -- way too many for Kleisath's 800-square-foot apartment. For the next four months, Kleisath showed 15 of them how to write proposals that would appeal to donors.

It was "incredibly successful," she said. The Shem Women's Group was born -- shem means "charity" or "compassion," and as a bonus has the word "she" in it.

The women came up with projects, donors supplied money and new workshops were held. So far, $130,000 has been raised. Sixteen projects have been completed and 10 are proposed -- including rebuilding the prayer hall of a nunnery, buying threshing machines and teaching Tibetan to children to keep the language from dying. Donors have included the Canada Fund, British Embassy, Shambala Connection and Royal Netherlands Embassy, with grants ranging from $2,000 to $18,000.

For Kleisath, the hardest part of her endeavor has involved cultural differences in communication.

"It's pretty much unacceptable for them to tell me they're unhappy with something I've done," she said. "I've learned how to read their body language. It's this amazing dance of guesswork."

Home during winter break, she sat in the kitchen of the Walnut Creek home where she grew up. Her white boxer, Kobi, wore a Tibetan dog collar made of yarn that is the envy of Contra Costa canines, or rather their owners. Her mother, Monica Daigle-Kleisath, baked brownies. She has visited her daughter and stayed with rural Tibetan families.

"They would starve before they would not provide for me," Daigle-Kleisath said.

During breaks in the school year, her daughter goes to the villages where the women in the Shem Group were raised and where their projects are taking shape.

"Some live only five hours away and some five days away," Kleisath said. "My journey is by train, bus, horse, motorcycle and foot."

She intended to stay in China only two years. When she leaves in September, it will have been four. Kleisath hopes to get a doctorate in anthropology and focus on development elsewhere, but she plans to keep working with Shem -- where she volunteers her time -- for the rest of her life.

Kleisath wanted the organization to be self-sufficient someday, and that point has arrived.

"I pay attention more to the women I see now," said Chugpilhamo, 23, Shem's development program director, in a phone interview from China. "And before, I didn't pay attention to how society looked at us."

One of her colleagues, 24-year-old Shem program director Lhamotso, said that she, too, has changed.

"I have realized that women, no matter how young or old, can do something as important and as valuable as men," she said via e-mail. "Also, I have learned how to think critically, not just accept everything others say."


A fundraiser will be held at the Performing Arts Center at Las Lomas High School, 1460 S. Main St., Walnut Creek, on Thursday at 7 p.m. Tibetan items will be auctioned and Michelle Kleisath will speak about the Shem Women's Group, show slides and answer questions. For more information on the organization, see www.shemgroup.org.

E-mail Patricia Yollin at pyollin@sfchronicle.com.

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if it works for you -

Here are places to support Lt. Watada. 


SUPPORT RALLY on the eve of The Lieutenant's court-martial

Please bring signs and banners.

Mon. Feb. 5                  Watada Support Vigil        
University Ave. Footbridge Overpass, Hwy 80 (near Berkeley)
5-6:30pm     Powell & Market, San Francisco          
7-9pm                                   Watada Support Event
(live report from the Ft. Lewis court martial)
Cameron House, 920 Sacramento, San Francisco Chinatown
Contact:  Mike Tsukahara
Organizers:  Watada Support Committee/APIs Resist!
Tues. Feb. 6                  Watada Support Vigil        
7-8am           University Ave. Footbridge Overpass, Hwy 80  (near Berkeley)
5-7pm           University Ave. Footbridge Overpass, Hwy 80  (near Berkeley)
                        Powell & Market, San Francisco        
Wed. Feb. 7                  Watada Support Vigil        
7-8am           University Ave. Footbridge Overpass, Hwy 80  (near Berkeley)
5-7pm           University Ave. Footbridge Overpass, Hwy 80  (near Berkeley)
                        Powell & Market, San Francisco        
Support Lt. Ehren Watada
& Other Courageous Military Resisters!

for more information on the case: http://www.couragetoresist.org and http://www.thankyoult.org
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Rick Moranis!!

This is fun and probably hits a wee bit close to the bone for some of us.   Enjoy and consider!!   : )

Op-Ed Contributor

12 Rms, 8 Bths, 38 Wind Turbines

Published: February 5, 2007

To: The board of directors, 814 Park Avenue

From: Lydia Katherine Powell-Watley, Apt. 10 C-D

Dear Beloved Fellow Neighbors,

As much as it pains me to needlessly waste paper products, here are the suggestions I discussed at the annual shareholders’ meeting last week. I apologize for having spoken at such length; I’m just so incredibly excited about the idea of having our whole co-op reduce its carbon footprint.

As you know, Bob and I have canceled our annual post-holiday trips to Anguilla and Taos in order to reduce our personal carbon footprints. (Bob is busy with deals anyway, two of which involve ethanol!) So I’ll be around until March break to begin implementing these changes so that we all can help save our glorious planet.

1. It’s crucial that we begin harvesting rainwater immediately. According to the co-op’s proprietary lease, shareholders who have terraces don’t actually own their outdoor square footage, so reclaiming them should not be a problem. Bob suggests using sort of a cross between eminent domain and “pleading footprint.”

For our little terrace off the library, I’ve ordered a 500-gallon free-standing elliptical leg tank made of high-density polyethylene with no UV inhibitors. My feeling is, solar-heat the rainwater and deal with it later. Mr. Ramirez says that his brother has a company that can install the collection piping.

2. I’ve spoken to Time Warner about whether their coaxial and fiber optic cable can be restrung laterally across the courtyard for laundry drying. Needless to say how much energy this will save. Bob knows several people on the TWX board and says he’ll pitch them on the “P.C.-P.R.” of this.

The operator I spoke to (Magda was on hold for hours, though she has extra time now that I’ve stopped her doing the towels every day) said that he thought it wouldn’t affect basic cable reception but wasn’t sure about high-def. Bob says we shouldn’t do this until well after the Final Four.

3. Our underused roof can house up to 38 wind turbine generators. Unlike solar energy, wind doesn’t get dark at night, if you know what I mean. Each one can create 200 watts of power at wind speeds as low as 15 m.p.h. Basically we can run the lights in the playroom for a year off one good nor’easter.

4. We must stop flower delivery immediately!!! They are imported from South America and the energy required to fly them into the country, truck them to the stores and deliver them to our lobby is leaving a huge nasty footprint.

Alternatively, there are several beautifully decorative worm farm/herb planters on the market. I recommend the Mission style to create a more Arts-and-Craftsy feel. The units are totally sealed to protect the worms from any bugs. And dogs! The bottom compost section inside the timber casing creates a stable warm temperature that worms love. Happy worms make delicious herbs. I have these in Quogue and they’re gorgeous. And many of you have tasted my pesto!

We can start with three of these exactly where we kept the flowers. If demand for the herbs is high we can add more wormers to the lobby and basement. I’m obviously not worried about getting compost. By the way, the herbs have to be watered. Did I hear someone say “rainwater”?

5. Bulbs. Don’t get me started. Every bulb in every one of our apartments, hallways, lobby and basement should be immediately changed to energy-efficient and environment-saving ones. Magda and/or I will personally change anyone’s bulbs upon request (the first time).

6. We need to immediately attach energy-converting generators to all the stationary bicycles, rowing machines and NordicTracks in the basement gym. With current usage levels, we could power several small appliances and all of Jorge and Jose’s hand tools. Mr. Ramirez says that his cousin has a company that can do the installation.

7. Although I’m told the turnout at this year’s holiday party was rather bleak, I think we should do once-a-week potluck dinners in our new eco-friendly lobby. To cut down on the energy required to make our own meals, yes. But also to share and exchange new and exciting ideas about how to further “green” the building. For example, if we all donate one old shearling to wrap the boiler, we could save money and reduce our big old footprint.

8. We should penalize S.U.V. idlers outside the building, the way that principal at the 92nd Street Y did. In fact, we should have a simple carbon footprint rating and award system in the building. Maybe the winner gets to miss a month’s maintenance charge. I don’t know. Maybe a plaque. It just seems like such a waste to have drivers waiting outside the building all the time, even in hybrids.

This is an exciting time for all of us who care about our environment. Imagine us growing our food in our own waste, powering our elevators with our StairMasters. Bob says this wasn’t a problem before underdeveloped countries started to experience economic growth. I think we can not only reduce our carbon footprint but have fun too! And be a positive symbol to our entire community.

If anyone has any questions, I’ll be in Bedford on BlackBerry.

One of our mares is foaling!



Rick Moranis is the creator of rickmoranis.com.

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Mark Twain - wise, as always -

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

Mark Twain 

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Audre Lorde -

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

    - Audre Lorde