Wednesday, April 30, 2008

World Travel Wednesday - Old Town!

I hope my loyal readers will excuse the fact that I'm already bushed; and this will be short. But I promise - Patriotism and Tradition tomorrow if you can bear with me.

Today I ventured out with Thing One's class to Old Town San Diego. Old Town San Diego is considered the "birthplace" of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. Father Serra’s mission and Presidio were built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego. At the base of the hill in 1820’s, a small Mexican community of adobe buildings was formed and by 1835 had attained the status of El Pueblo de San Diego. In 1846, a U.S. Navy Lieutenant and a Marine Lieutenant, raised the American flag in the Old Town San Diego Plaza.

San Diego Alcala 2, ArtPhotoGirl

Our guide this morning was Sherriff McCoy, State Senator and Sherriff of San Diego. In March 2000, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) completed construction of the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Entry Redevelopment project, which included extensive landscaping and reconstruction of the McCoy House. State Park archaeologists excavated in Old Town San Diego in 1995 to recover information needed to reconstruct a large residence built in 1869 by James McCoy, a well-to-do Irish immigrant who served as San Diego’s sheriff and state senator. Prior to 1851 the property belonged to Maria Eugenia Silvas, descendant of a Spanish Colonial soldier who came to Alta California in the 1770s.

Cactus Old Town, shellsnoel

Old town has lot to do; we saw the first Public schoolhouse in California, learned about adobe and it's use in the old west, about native California plants, and how to make butter! (The kids got to eat some with their snack of tortillas.) But what I really waned was CANDY! Old Town also boasts Cousin's Candy, an authentic penny candy store. They have some awesome old fashioned candy. (And sesame candy for cheap. Mmmm.)

Old Lithograph Print Small Town Scene Girl in High Boots, ArtPhotoGirl

It was a fun trip, all things considered, and it was nice to go with the Boy before he gets too old to want me there.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I'm quite enjoying this curating thing. Have I mentioned that? Here's my latest go, for fans of Tommy Tutone (and Jennys, Jennis, Jenis, Jennies, Jennees, and heck, even the Jens and Jenns. Bring Jennifer and Jeniffer, too.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Green Saturday - Eco Friendly Gaming!

Yesterday I was stumped on what to blog about today. I usually have all of my research already done by Saturday, and there's kind of a lot going on in our casa right now, so I hadn't had time. Driving in the car, I asked El Jefe what he thought I should focus on this Saturday. "Well I should think it's pretty obvious!" was his reply.

It wasn't. But he's right, his answer should have been obvious. If you're a gamer (like El Jefe) you know that the first game to get 10's in all categories on is due out on Tuesday. Grand Theft Auto IV is currently the obsession here. And it was the answer. So in honor of the release of GTA4 (and El Jefe's cute funny self) I decided to look into gaming. Seems all is not so green.

Greenpeace, in particular is not happy with Nintendo. They put out this funny video called "Clash Of The Consoles" where you can learn which of the 3 is the worst. Poor little Mario comes out on the bottom. Seems Nintendo is not their favorite.

Floral Series - Wii Skin, NoveltyGallery

Greenpeace is not my favorite. I am a supporter of non-violent protest, letter writing campaigns (I mean who really writes letters anymore?) and telephone calls. GreenPEACE is known for their violent protest clashes. That gives me a bad taste in my mouth. All the same, my first recommendation, before spending that economic stimulus check on a new game console, is to do a little research. Nintendo has an environment section in their FAQ's, Sony has an in depth report page. Microsoft has not much that's easy to locate, but I'm a Mac girl.

And on that note, lets talk a little about that Alienware glowering in the corner. That water cooled processor? It's a big drain on power and probably costs more than you realize every month. Think about treating yourself to a new (and smaller) gaming laptop. This one from Alienware boasts the Intel® Core™2 Duo processor and everything from wallpaper and avatar selections to the proper time zone are personalized just the way you want it, right from the factory. Or maybe you'd be interested in this Vigor Atlantis Pro with a 20" WSXGA+ TFT panel and desktop-class Core 2 Duo processors from INTEL for uncompromised performance. Besides, should you want to actually be in the same ROOM as some of the other members of your 40-man, this is a great way to do it!

Item Block Pillow, punzie

And let's talk about how we get those games, shall we?? Though I am not a gamer in the true geek royalty sense, I enjoy a good romp in my Viva Piñata garden every once in a while. I bought it at the GameStop here in town. Used. Yes - I went to the store and bought an already played game. This is a great deal! I keep games forever and continue to play them. El Jefe, on the other hand, plays a game until it is totally beaten and then is done. Lately he and his buddy Mr. T have been trading games. I love this plan. This way they don't take up space and someone else gets to enjoy them. So if you are a buy-it-when-it-comes-out gamer, please share with your buds (besides how else can you brag about achievements if they haven't played the game?) And when the bragging is over, take them back to GameStop and let someone like me buy them.

Guitar Hero Embroidery design, ia2ca

Another option for buy-it-play-it-toss-it gamers is GameFly. Like NetFlix for games, you can rent, play through, return, and rent another. Perfect solution, especially for those who don't have a lot of game space. And hey, if you like it, buy it used!! And if you're done with your old console, consider donating it to a Children's Hospital or similar charity. Child's Play, the gamer charity, is always in need of new games, consoles and software for Children's Hospitals around the country.

And please, as always, when you're done playing (and you actually have to go to work or school), please turn your console off. Save your game (hooray for technological innovation) and shut your console OFF. You'll save a lot of power and a little money this way.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Thank you (again) to the lovely (and darkly cool) Diana, who has bestowed upon me the "E for Excellence" blog award. You have made my day. I am not alone in recieving this award, my co-awardees are ChristopherandTia. Please, I beg of you, go visit. It is hilarious and altogether human.

I almost forgot! I now have the incredible honor of passing the buck! I pass it to Heather, who has TWO excellent blogs. One is her own silly blog, the other has an amazing story of kindness to thank for it's beginnings, and hopefully a lot more kindness to thank for it's continued success. (So get out there and do something nice!) Yay Heather!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

World Travel Wednesday - San Diego, CA, USA

Funny, I live in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth, and I just now realized what a wonderful focus it would be. And so now I give you my home. San Diego.

San Diego (pronounced /ˌsændiˈeɪgoʊ/) is a coastal Southern California city located in the southwestern corner of the continental United States. In 2006, the city's population was estimated to be 1,256,951. It is the second largest city in California and the eighth largest city in the United States. It is the county seat of San Diego County. and is the economic center of the San Diego–Carlsbad–San Marcos metropolitan area, the 17th-largest in the United States with a population of 2.9 million as of 2006, and the 21st-largest metropolitan area in the Americas when including Tijuana .

San Diego County lies just north of the Mexican border—sharing a border with Tijuana—and lies south of Orange County. It is home to miles of beaches, a mild Mediterranean climate and 16 military facilities hosting the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard and the United States Marine Corps.

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the affiliated UCSD Medical Center combined with nearby research institutes in the Torrey Pines area of La Jolla make the area influential in biotechnology research. San Diego's economy is largely composed of agriculture, biotechnology/biosciences, computer sciences, electronics manufacturing, defense-related manufacturing, financial and business services, ship-repair and construction, software development, telecommunications, and tourism.

First stop: Balboa Park

El Jefe and I (and the kiddos) love Balboa Park. We visit at least once a month, usually more often than that. It is a 1200 acre (4.9 sq. km.) public park, and has SOOO many things to do. The clickable photo above was taken by El Jefe of the Botanical Building. Much of the park's look and feel today is due to the development done for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The Exposition was to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, set to open in 1915, and to tout San Diego as the first U.S. port of call for vessels traveling north after passing through the canal. The botanical building and it's lily pond (stocked with lovely koi) were built for the exposition. (Picture taken by El Jefe, and prints are for sale if you would like one. Email me!)

Also in Balboa park is the Old Globe Theatre. The internationally-acclaimed, Tony® Award-winning Old Globe is one of the most renowned regional theatres in the country, and has stood as San Diego’s flagship arts institution for over 70 years.

The Old Globe produces a year-round season of 15 plays and musicals on its three stages, including its highly-regarded Shakespeare festival. The Globe has become a gathering place for leading theatre artists from around the world, such as Tom Stoppard, Daniel Sullivan, and Chita Rivera, among many others. Numerous Broadway-bound premieres and revivals, such as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, and Damn Yankees have been developed at The Old Globe and have gone on to enjoy highly successful runs in New York and at regional theatres across the country.

We are subscribers to the Old Globe. It is an amazing venue, all of the theatres are intimate affairs and there are truly world class showings going on all of the time. We recently saw Dancing In The Dark, starring Scott Bakula (yes, that one) and it was AMAZING.

One of the wonderful things about Balboa Park is that it serves as a central location for many of San Diego's Museums. Pictured is the San Diego Natural History Museum, recently remodeled and with fantastic exhibits. Currently showing is A Day in Pompeii, which followed the Dead Sea Scrolls, two things I never would have guessed I'd have the chance to see without leaving the US. Both exhibits were marvelous, and the regular exhibits are always great, too. The museum recently held an exhibition called Earth, Wind & WILDFIRE that taught us how to live with and protect ourselves from the wildfires that are commonplace here. Some parts of the country have earthquakes (we have little ones), hurricanes or tornadoes; we have fire season.

Next stop: The Stars

Just outside of San Diego proper sits one of the largest optical telescopes in the world (at #19 currently.) Palomar Observatory is situated on Mount Palomar, a nice drive up mountain twisties an hour or so from downtown. The 200 inch (5.08 m) telescope is named after astronomer George Ellery Hale. It was built by Caltech with a 6 million dollar grant from the Rockefeller Institute, using a Pyrex blank manufactured by Corning Glass Works. The telescope (the largest in the world at that time) saw "first light" in 1948. The American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble was the first astronomer to use the telescope for observing. The Hale Telescope is operated by a consortium of Caltech, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Cornell University.

Please excuse Thing One's cold self. Although it is beautiful here year round, due to the altitude, Palomar tends to be pretty cold. We enjoy driving up there, often unplanned. El Jefe likes the drive, and I like the gift shop and the fact that six months out of the year there is snow on the mountain. The telescope offers tours most days, and they have wonderful grounds with a picnic area.

Final Stop: Back to Earth

A refreshing amount of land in San Diego has been preserved, and consists of parks and nature conservancies. One of these has an entrance not far from where I live. Mission Trails Regional Park encompasses nearly 5,800 acres of both natural and developed recreational acres. Its rugged hills, valleys and open areas represent a San Diego prior to the landing of Cabrillo in San Diego Bay in 1542. With over 40 miles of trails, boating on Lake Murray, camping at Kumeyaay Lake, numerous informative hikes, and a state-of-the-art Visitor & Interpretive Center, Mission Trails Regional Park has something to offer everyone. I love living in San Diego, because it has all of the things a big city has. But I think I love the care that San Diego has for the land and the people who live here more.

Please, come visit! It's lovely here. There's so much stuff I haven't even begun to show you. If you have any questions, email me!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Green Saturday - Earth Day edition!!

Earth Fair San Diego was today. I love Earth Fair, a packed event that usually brings up to 70,000 people, with lots of food, drinks, music, not-for-profit organizations and just plain cool stuff. We had a blast, and it was a great way to introduce the kiddos to some concepts that they may not quite understand. It all started with the bus.

It was parked right outside the park (well, one of the 14 entrances anyway. The fair takes up the WHOLE park.) and it belongs to one of the many religious organizations that have booths. (The Twelve Tribes.) That's one of the great (and not-so-wonderful) things about the fair. Not only are there plenty of options to clean your home, clean our air and our water, but there are lots of ways to cleanse your soul, too, should you desire a new enlightenment. I like these booths, as religion seems to breed deep thinkers. And so does non-religion, it seems. The ladies and gentlemen at the Atheist Coalition booth are always very friendly and willing to chat if they're not swamped. The thing that I find upsetting is that there are anti-abortion protestors there every year. Children holding huge posters and wearing awful tee shirts. Children, 7, 8, 10 year olds who can't possibly grasp the concept of what they're protesting against. Sigh. Okay, back to the fun!

The kiddos had fun. At every exhibit that had the possibility of being cool, Thing one asked if he could bring his little sister. So they checked out Brittle Stars with the lovely ladies from USD...

And saw an American Alligator with the folks from Sea World and Conservation International . . .

And Sam got to make his very own paper. It's actually a pledge to keep every day Earth Day, and he did a very good job. So good that the local news station filmed and interviewed him! Let's hope one of our friends has a working cable box as ours won't record programming right now.

A few of the other great companies there were Simple. shoes, made of sustainable products. They even make DIY shoes and a DIY Bag (it's cool, too!) And they have the cutest infant shoes ever, with little felt piggies on them. Seriously, if you haven't seen thses and you have a little one, check 'em out!

I was also introduced to Veterans For Peace. They are a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. There is an annual convention each year attended by our members, families and supporters from across the nation. Members receive periodic VFP publications.
The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.

If you are a non-veteran, you MAY become a member, and support this cause for the many men and women who cannot. Especially for the women. There are not enough organizations (in my opinion) that recognize women veterans. There are many more now, and quite a few from the war in Iraq. VFP provides a wonderful community for those women.

There was also lots of yummy food (many samples!) We liked the Clif bars. They taste good and are great for little ones because they are like a Granola Bar but less crunchy and with more energy. They were giving out Banana Bread and Cool Mint Chocolate bars. Yum.

All in all it was a lot of fun. The kids (well, Thing One, anyway. . .) learned a few things and we had a good time. Just check this out! (Okay, maybe the little one wasn't diggin' THAT so much . . .)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Green Saturday postponed til tomorrow!

Earth Fair San Diego is tomorrow, and I wanted to show you some pictures and cool stuff from there. See you tomorrow!!

Friday, April 18, 2008


This time I didn't curate, but I'm in a treasury!! San Diego's East County team has this awesome treasury, go check it out! HERE!!


Thing one turned seven the other day. We had a birthday party, and I am really proud of how it turned out. Here's some pictures to share!

The gift bags and big card (we also had silver pens so his friends could sign...) The gift bags had a little thank you tag on them with a moon picture (taken by El Jefe!) and a thank you.

What Space Party would be complete without a Rocket Piñata?

And the cake. I got a regular Costco cake and decorated it myself. Spraypaint color for the sky, and colored fondant planets. The little stars are nonpareils to give the impression of a starry sky. I'm really proud of it!

So it was a big hit, all the moms and dads were impressed with the park and how well the kids got along (and my cake decorating skillz) and most importantly, everyone had fun!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


In smaller organizations, a curator may have sole responsibility for the acquisition and care of objects. The curator will make decisions regarding what objects to collect, oversee their care and documentation, conduct research based on the collection, and share that research with the public and scholarly community through exhibitions and publications. In very small volunteer-based museums, such as local historical societies, a curator may be the only paid staff member.
In larger institutions, the curator's primary function is as a subject specialist, with the expectation that he or she will conduct original research on objects and guide the organization in its collecting. Such institutions can have multiple curators, each assigned to a specific collecting area (e.g. Curator of Ancient Art, Curator of Prints and Drawings, etc.) and often operating under the direction of a head curator. In such organizations, the physical care of the collection may be overseen by museum collections managers or museum conservators, and documentation and administrative matters (such as insurance and loans) are handled by a museum registrar.

I like this gig. I think it fits me. Perhaps I have a new plan for what to do when I grow up. Again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

World Travel Wednesday - Perth/Fremantle, Australia

I love Australia. At one point, El Jefe and I discussed emigrating there when we retire. I have worked with the Australian Navy, wonderful people, every single one. Truly, Australia is the friendliest country I have visited. And there's lots of other reasons why I like it, too.

Today, we'll visit the Perth/Fremantle area. Perth is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia, and the fourth-largest city in Australia, with a population of 1,554,769 (2007 estimate). One of its LGAs, the City of Perth, is currently the fastest growing area in Australia in percentage terms (10% per year).
Perth was founded on 11 June 1829 by Captain James Stirling as the political centre of the free settler Swan River Colony. It has continued to serve as the seat of Government for Western Australia to the present day.
The metropolitan area is located in the south west of the continent between the Indian Ocean and a low coastal escarpment known as the Darling Range. The central business district and suburbs of Perth are situated on the Swan River.

Fremantle is a port city in Western Australia, located 19 kilometres (12 mi) southwest of Perth, the state capital, at the mouth of the Swan River on Australia's western coast. It was the first settlement of the Swan River Colonists in 1829. It was declared a city in 1929, and has a population of approximately 26,000.
The city is named after Charles Fremantle, the English naval officer who had pronounced possession of Western Australia and who established the camp at the site. The city contains well preserved buildings and other heritage sites. The Western Australian vernacular diminutive for Fremantle is "Freo".

Pulling in to Fremantle (we stay there because it's a smaller port and easier for us to deal with all of the customs requirements and just easier for us to make a home base) we really get the best of WA. There is fabulous public transport from Fremantle up to Perth along the coast, and a bunch of lovely seaside hotels to stay in and enjoy the beautiful weather. San Diegans - Love your weather? Visit Perth/Fremantle! It's just like San Diego, but with a different accent and lots of friendly new people. (And great shopping!)

Perth has wonderful museums. The Western Australian Maritime Museum was being built when I was there, but we got a few sneak peeks (we were right by it) and it is fabulous! The building itself is great, and it houses galleries that detail Western Australia's rich maritime history in pictures and displays. Along with lots of pictures of Australian Navy men. Those uniforms are HOT. (And there's a tourable RAN submarine, too. Way cool.)

While in Fremantle, I was intorduced to one of my now favorite bands, The Waifs. They're a trio from Western Australia and their latest album 'sun, dirt, water' came out on September of '07. I fell in love with this song.

Besides the amazing culture in Perth, there's a little of the gritty stuff there, too. ( I spent quite a bit of time at The Amplifier Bar, one of Perth's premier live venues and a kickin' bar . . . although anywhere is kickin' when the fleet's in. ) I was also lucky enough to get a tattoo from Marc Pinto. Marc is a world renowned hand tattoo artist who studied at Johnny Two Thumbs. My tattoo was done totally by hand, with just a single needle lashed to bamboo, then the ink was applied by Marc. Ink freaks, if you have the opportunity to have a traditional tattoo done by an amazing artist like Marc, do it! Here's my tattoo, a couple of years later.

I know, it's way cropped, but nobody really wants to see my foot that huge. I hope you've liked my tour of WA, I really do love it there. And I can't stress the friendliness enough. Cheers!

Monday, April 14, 2008


I am officially a curator of my very own treasury! I LOVE the colors of this one, so rich and vibrant and cosy all at the same time. The colors I'd like to have in a home library. When I was making it I was thinking of dark wood, large leather wing chairs and well loved gilt edged books. Enjoy!

Of course I added some of my favorite artists, many who I have in my favorite links list over on the left. Thank you paynesgrey, heatherfuture, calloohcallay, Kerry, and AnnE and the other wonderful artisans included. You are all in amazing company!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Green Saturday: Fair Trade

Mmmm . . . Good morning! I'm sitting here at my computer drinking my first cup of Fair Trade certified coffee, and feeling jut a little self righteous. After all, MY coffee's Fair Trade!

What does that mean anyway? I've been seeing it a lot on goods ranging from coffees to pillows to candy. What does it mean? How do I know? How can I find more Fair Trade goods? You're in the right place.

Fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers - especially in the South. Fair trade organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.

Fair Trade Spice Kit from purposedesign on Etsy

How does a product get labelled "Fair Trade"? Through Fairtrade certification by the FLO, or Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. You can identify FLO products with this seal.

Several Online marketplaces deal primarily in Fair Trade goods, such as the Global Exchange and Ten Thousand Villages. Etsy is also a great place to find Fair Trade goods!
Check out this African Black Liquid Soap from Fairycat!

These silk cushion covers from cebra are amazing!

Wear this apron from HotTeaApparel while you make a fresh pot so all your guests know how you feel!

Big businesses are getting into the mix, too. One of my favorite products ever (thanks to the awesome counselors at Camp Favorite when I was 10 or so) is Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. I used to buy it at Eastern Mountain Sports back then, and I swore by the Peppermint. I still love it. And now they're Fair Trade Certified!

I hope you have fun shopping for your favorite sustainable and Fair Trade goods this weekend. I'll finish up with my FAVORITE Fair Trade Item on Etsy (besides the coffee!)

This beautiful scarf from toybreaker. I love this scarf. El Jefe - Mother's Day is almost here!

Friday, April 11, 2008

4 things . . .


Well, first, one thing. I'd like to thank Diana of A Muted Palette and paynesgrey for tagging me. I won a wonderful art card in a contest on her blog last week. I recieved it today, and it is an amazing work of art. Check out her store, read her blog, take a look at the work of this amazing artist. And her 4 things.

4 jobs:

Retail Clerk at J.C. Penney
Pizza Delivery girl
Sonar Technician, USN

4 favorite movies:
The Handmaid's Tale
Disney's Robin Hood
4 Weddings and a Funeral
The Man Who Skied Down Everest

4 places I've been:
Hong Kong

4 places I've lived:
North Attleboro, MA
San Diego County, CA
Chicago, IL
USS Shiloh/Hewitt

4 favorite television shows:
As Time Goes By (BBC)
Emergency (LOVE Randolph Mantooth)
Rick Steves

4 Favorite Beverages:
Root Beer floats
Thai Iced Tea
Gin & Tonic

4 favorite foods:
Thai (Green Curry)
Japanese (gyoza and BBQ pork buns)
Fusion Boulliabaisse
California Burritos

4 places I'd rather be:
Asleep for a LONG time. Like 14 hours.
On the water. (But not working.)
Anywhere in the world with El Jefe.
Somewhere new, eating something local and yummy.

Now I have to tag 4 other bloggers, or my next post will go unread and sad. Or my children will have bad penmanship. Or something equally awful. So I choose these lucky folks!!

Isabel of Hola, Isabel. (Who is also having a great giveaway, check it out!)
Jen of Little Pods (she makes super cute clothes!!)
Persimmons Gal (who has an AWESOME blog contest on right now and just opened a new Etsy store!)
JLC Studio, with her wonderful Friday Flickr finds and a weekly win-it!

Have fun, fellow bloggers!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

World Travel Wednesday - Another Side of Japan

I'm an American. That much is probably pretty clear in my manner of speaking, my ideals and methodology, and if you know me in real life - my often blunt tactlessness. I'm proud, too. Maybe not as proud as, say, Lee Greenwood or Hillary Clinton. But I know very well the oportunities I have been afforded, the things I take for granted that other people only wish for. But every once in a while, my American pride makes me sad. Because there are more than a few points in American history that are not nice, or pretty. Today I'd like to talk about one of those.

The last time I visited Japan, I had the opportunity to visit the Nagasaki Bomb Museum and peace park. (The funny pooping dog sign? Peace Park.)It was a sobering and educational experience to say the least.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuclear attacks during World War II against the Empire of Japan by the United States at the order of U.S. President Harry S. Truman. After six months of intense firebombing of 67 other Japanese cities, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on Monday August 6, 1945, followed on August 9 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki. These are to date the only attacks with nuclear weapons in the history of warfare.

The Nagasaki Bomb Museum serves to educate those of us who did not live through the events of WWII. There are displays of the rich culture of Nagasaki before the blast, firsthand accounts from the destruction, interviews and writings from survivors outlining the horrors of the aftermath of the bomb. There is also a large portion of the museum dedicated to educating people about nuclear weapons with a large display of where all the weapons in the world are located. This pictoral display was particularly sad, as the US has 2,000 more available nukes than the next leading nuclear power (Soviet Union) and 10,000 more than anyone else. (Non-pictoral table HERE.)

There are also many artifacts from the blast. This bust of the Virgin Mary was on the front gate of the Urakami Catholic Church when the bomb exploded. It was dug from the ashes, and is now displayed in a newly built church.

The most amazing part of the museum to me is the strength of the people who survived the blast and their struggles just afterwards. Many survived by almost miraculous means, hiding behind trees or walls or crouching, faces on the floor. There is a portion of the Bomb Museum website dedicated to the trees that have survived the blast, like this one - which saved it's owner Emiko Taira from the blast, and the walls of buildings like the Urakami Tenshudo Church.

I am proud to be an American. And I am glad that I have visited this important place, so that I may hopefully learn from past history. May we never repeat it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hooray for blog contests!!

I always try to leave a comment when I visit someone's blog, and usually I get to 'meet' some cool folks that way. And blog owners have contests. Well today was my day! I woke up this morning to the news that I won two wonderful blog contests, one from Little Pods and one from a muted palette. Today i stumbled across another contest by a fellow Etsian named Persimmons Gal. She has an amazing Etsy shop HERE, and her blog giveaway is HERE. Go check out her stuff! (Here's my favorite thing in her shop!) Jil is having a new blog contest tomorrow HERE. Like origami? Check out the contest HERE! Do you like coupons? HERE's a link to some, free! JLC Studios (also in my blog list) has a weekly giveaway!

Do you have a contest, giveaway or coupons in your blog? Leave a comment!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Green Saturday: Microfinance

Microfinance has become a household buzzword lately, but what is it really? Wikipedia says "Microfinance services are financial services that poor people desire and are willing to pay for. The term also refers to the practice of sustainably delivering those services. More broadly, it refers to a movement that envisions “a world in which as many poor and near-poor households as possible have permanent access to an appropriate range of high quality financial services, including not just credit but also savings, insurance, and fund transfers.” " It's really about providing financial services to those who would not be able to attain such services in a regular market because of the cost to the lender in doing so.

There are several peer-to-peer lending organizations out there. is a not-for-profit organization that uses a network of growing Microfinance Institutions (MFI's) in over thirty countries to provide loans to small businesses using the paypal donations of folks like you and me. Here's a great story by Matt Flannery, co-founder of Kiva.

I lend to Kiva myself, and as an example of who these loans help, here's the bio of one of the small business owners my loan is currently assisting.

Amrahova Dunya was born in Sumqayit city. She is 34 years old and the mother of two children. Currently, she lives with her family in Sumgayit city, situated in the eastern part of Azerbaijan. She started her business in 2002. She sells creams, lotions, perfumes, shampoo, etc. With this business she earns little money. The money is enough for only some of her family's basic needs. She has difficulty in covering other family consumption needs for medication, clothes, school etc. Her best clients at the moment are young ladies who work at the offices. She needs $800 to buy merchandise in order to have a bigger inventory and be able to offer her clients a larger variety and better quality. She will be able to support her children’s studies and help with the family’s expenses with this income. She will repay the loan within 12 months.

Another microfinance portal - and a relatively new one- is MicroPlace Recently placed on the map by it's parent company eBay, MicroPlace is a portal that allows the lender to collect interest on their loans. There are similarities and differences between MicroPlace and Kiva (the important one to me being for profit (MicroPlace) vs. not for profit (Kiva).) has written an excellent article about it here.

A third portal, and one of the largest in the newsmedia, thanks to Natalie Portman (a spokeswoman) and HM Queen Rania of Jordan (on the Board of Directors and an avid spokeswoman) is FINCA. FINCA primarily lends to women, and has an excellent FAQ page on their site outlining the reasons for lending to their target borrower. From the website . . . "Why does FINCA lend primarily to women? 
For several reasons. First, the feminization of poverty is a worldwide trend. Seventy percent of the world’s poor are women, largely because of their limited access to education or to productive resources like land and credit. Another worldwide trend is an increase in woman-headed households, in which a mother provides the sole support for her children. Most victims of severe poverty are children. According to UNICEF, at least half of the 12 million children aged five or younger who die each year, die from malnutrition associated with severe poverty. The most direct way to improve childrens’ survival and welfare is to strengthen their own mothers’ ability to take care of them."

I hope I have helped put a face or two on the growing wonderful trend of microfinance, perhaps you will consider lending yourself. For more information, the United Nations Capital Development Fund has some great research and a very infomative website.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

World Travel Wednesday: Japan, Take 1

Japan is a wonderful country. Lots of great people, amazing food, and a culture thousands of years older than my own. There a lot of quirky awesome things about Japan that I particularly love . . . Here's a few.

This is a sign. That much is clear. I don't speak japanese, and I'm even worse at reading it; even when it is in bubbly happy letters. (Japanese speakers, translation would be welcome!) Still, I am relatively sure of what this sign says. And you can bet your bippy that if I had a dog, s/he would not be pooping in that park!

This was lunch, the before version. (Well mostly, I got a little excited and tried a few bits before remembering to snap.) It was very very tasty, and I can assure you, the bowl was almost dry when I was done. What I cannot do, however, is tell you what those purple pinwheel things are. Nor the brownish cylindrical thing in the top right quadrant. (You'll notice that's what I tasted.) I loved it, it was delicious. The Japanese do some amazing things with food. (I also learned that if your friend flaps his arms and says "bok, bok" at a truck stop or street stall, the kind workers will give him something that looks and tastes like chicken after laughing and calling their friends over to see. Mmmm . . . chicken.)

This one ALMOST speaks for itself. Because that's its job. To speak for you when you can't. Now I'm sure that the reason for this card is to assist those of us who have language difficulties, but lets face it. Almost every other country in the world teaches their children English at an early age. It is difficult to find a person in a very developed nation like Japan who cannot understand at least enough English to get an ignorant tourist back to the hotel. But it's REALLY easy to find a drunken sailor when the fleet's in. Huzzah! I'm too drunk to remember the name of my hotel. But wait. Here's the card!

Next week - a different view of Japan.