August 6th, 2007

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listening -

The fog continues.  Perhaps it is a cape in which to wrap so we can better listen to ourselves and others.  It tends to draw me inward.

Below is a column suggesting since we know how to talk, perhaps we hone our listening skills.

Certainly reading this morning that what was now illegal for obvious reasons is now legal does not make me feel better.  Bush can now do illegal wiretaps legally.   Whew!   That's a relief.   The Congress  has given him another "get out of jail" card.  The game of Monopoly continues to work  for Bush. 

Editorial from the NY Times:

We Never Really Talk Anymore

Published: August 6, 2007

Experts on language — the real ones, not those of us who merely use it — are having an intense debate about which species can talk. On one side are those who believe that only humans converse. On another side (this kind of debate can have many sides) are those who say, what about dolphins and whales and certainly the amazing Koko, the gorilla?

Koko has a sign language vocabulary of at least 1,000 words. She can recognize about 2,000 spoken words. And people pay attention. Once when she had a bad tooth, Koko signed the word for pain and pointed to her mouth and a medical team was rushed in immediately. The rest of us mammals can only envy her.

In a new book called “The First Word,” Christine Kenneally catalogs the complex debate over language and includes one particularly revealing experiment in which scientists put two male apes who knew sign language together. One might have expected these guys to start grousing about their keepers, to wonder at beings that are all thumbs and actually seem to enjoy giving away bananas. But, no, they started madly signing at each other, a manual shouting match, and in the end, neither appeared to actually listen to the other.

So, are two creatures actually conversing if they’re both talking and nobody is listening? Where does talking-without-listening put one in the animal brain chain?

Let’s see, talking without listening. Many wives can think of someone who might qualify. Teenagers do, easily. And parents of teenagers. Also, a lot of successful politicians and talk show hosts.

With a hot August and a long political season ahead, we might venture that what really separates human from ape is not the ability to talk in complete sentences. It is our underused capacity to listen.

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Eating locally -

Now that we are focused on eating locally, this article comes out showing that the issues are complex.  What a surprise!  Having found a local olive oil, I am pretty smug about how easy it is to eat locally where I live.  I take some paragraphs from an editorial in the NY Times today.

Op-Ed Contributor

Food That Travels Well

Published: August 6, 2007

Austin, Tex.

On its face, the connection between lowering food miles and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is a no-brainer. In Iowa, the typical carrot has traveled 1,600 miles from California, a potato 1,200 miles from Idaho and a chuck roast 600 miles from Colorado. Seventy-five percent of the apples sold in New York City come from the West Coast or overseas, the writer Bill McKibben says, even though the state produces far more apples than city residents consume. These examples just scratch the surface of the problem. In light of this market redundancy, the only reasonable reaction, it seems, is to count food miles the way a dieter counts calories.

But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more — or less — to food miles than meets the eye.

It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product’s carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production — what economists call “factor inputs and externalities” — like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Incorporating these measurements into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

James E. McWilliams is the author of “A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America” and a contributing writer for The Texas Observer.

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Morning Poem!



For today, I intend to notice

if words

and gestures

are received.

We listen for voices from the stars.

Meanwhile we may miss the grief

in the one with whom we share coffee,

may miss the chance to receive

the lobbed ball, to catch the fly,

and send it home

caught and thrown,

back and forth,

again and again.

For today, may I receive

and be received,

may I circle, centered,

in the keep

of the buzzing hive.

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Thomas Merton!

"In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going.
           In another sense we have already arrived.
           We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and are dwelling in the light.
           But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!

Thomas Merton. The Seven Storey Mountain. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1948: 419
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Emerson -

Motion or change and identity or rest are the first and second secrets of nature: Motion and Rest.

The whole code of her laws may be written on the thumbnail.

- Emerson

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Melville -

"We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results."

- Herman Melville