Cold water for laundry

A recent change at Chez Bitb: I'm now washing laundry in cold water only. Some of you will surely wonder what has taken me so long.  Because of the huge energy cost for heating wash water, the issue for me is not if hot water cleans laundry better than cold water, but if cold water cleans laundry well enough. And by washing clothes just enough I try to make them last longer and possibly reduce the number of clothing articles I need.

I don't usually promote commercial goods, but I use, like and recommend Charlie's Soap, a scent-free detergent that works very well in cold water. (It also seems to have a cult following in the cloth diaper crowd.) I used to get it at a now-defunct green goods store, but discovered it sold at (of all places) the Vitamin Shoppe, where I got a fresh tub this weekend.

Free your mind from commercial occupation

My "Occupy mind" is moving from plowing (attracting attention through encampment) to planting, even if the seasons belie the metaphor. It's time to develop concrete actions to match the feelings stirred up in the last two months. A political response is natural, and I expect you to keep pressure on your congregational delegations with respect to the banks, money in elections, student indebtedness and mortgages, among other issues.

But another, more basic issue, is changing our minds about what we really need as opposed to what we think we need. Confusing the famous with the important. Believing the promises made to you by people who have no interest in your well-being. (That thought started as a rejection of advertising, but really it goes much farther.) Thinking that your opinion is false because it is not well-spoken. (You can work on being convincing later.)

Of course, it's easier to do this when there are concrete examples, and I'll post good models as I find them.

Linux, Microsoft users: protect yourself against repetitive stress

I had a harrowing day today at the emergency room. All is well -- better safe that sorry -- but at the very least, let it be said that I should mitigate against eye and neck strain.

Coming home, I re-installed a piece of software I once used: Workrave. It forces you to take short pauses and coffee breaks, and leads you through stretching your arms and shoulders, and refocusing your eyes. You can set the length between breaks and how many times you can defer them, say if you're on deadline or showing someone something on your computer.

For users of the newest (Oneiric) version of Ubuntu Linux, install the backports repository (Edit > Software sources > Updates tab in the Ubuntu Software Center) and install it there or any standard way.

Linux users who compile from source and Microsoft users can get their software here.

Cold outside, inside — but action

One of the tensions I feel is how far we (Americans, global citzens or the 99%) should respond to the current economic situation: act primarily in concord to develop a new economic order, or retool our expectations for life with less.

Or, I suspect, both. I am by habit a rather thrifty person, even in times of plenty. I suppose I want to have reserves in difficult times, but I also believe that it is immoral to live in such a way that depends on others to suffer for your comfort.

The weather is cold quite early this fall here on the Eastern seaboard. A good place to start. Better to wear more appropriate clothing indoors and turn down the heat than -- as is the case in metropolitan Washington -- to use far-shipped gas or (in my case) heat with electricity that comes from strip-mined coal.

Here's an article from early this year that continues to inspire me. Saves energy, saves money, avoids the hubris of overconsumption.

"Insulation: first the body, then the home" (Low Tech Magazine)

Thinking about food

No great thoughts today. Just a continuous stream of the same (and literally visceral) thought today: food. What I can have, when I can have it. I've begun to count calories again today.

I've been picking up weight lately. My clothes are tight, my digestion is a wreck and I feel underpowered. I know from experience that if I lose 20 pounds I'll feel better. I also know from experience that only one way works: to set a calorie budget and stick to it by measuring, counting and recording. I'm ordinarily eat a pretty wholesome, balanced diet. The budget keeps excesses at bay, and puts vegetables first. I love the results; I even love the food. (After a while, I forget about crackers and corn chips: two of my sabotage foods.)

So why do I stop? Because it takes a lot of work to maintain. And I think about food endlessly, especially when I'm resuming and there are tempting foods in the house (and not enough ready-to-eat low energy food.)

The difference now is that I'm prepared to think more about food as a part of the human condition. The fashionable set talk about their preferred foods. (Local! Organic! Thai!) The hungry have to plan carefully to get enough food. The imperiled -- I'm thinking of the Japanese right now -- upright their lives by securing food.

We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We worship with food. Jesus taught with food, and my relatives comforted with food.

And so we think -- I pray -- so we do. But it's going to be a heluva struggle.

Emergency preparation: can stove

I think my several years of childhood in hurricane-vulnerable New Orleans has deeply affected my approach to emergency preparation. When there's news of very bad weather coming, the first thing I do is put back at least two gallons of drinking water (Dutch ovens are good, plus a pitcher in the fridge) and plug in everything that can recharge. Then start a load of laundry -- the risk of four or five days off-grid is more bearable if there are clean clothes to change into -- and then out for supplies. But I try to keep a few days' worth of food in the house that can be eaten without cooking. Perhaps not desirable, but edible.

Place these thoughts in the context of the current suffering in Japan. Sometimes preparations don't do much good, but that's not an excuse not to prepare. And so I thought about what extra resources -- not too obtrusive or expensive; butterfly bandages, say-- would I put back?

Now, I'm no camper, but a camp stove would be a good choice, and one -- like the long-used and much loved beverage can stoves would be a better to have than no way to cook or heat a bit of water at all. Here's the concept, and here's a variation I'd want to have on hand. But the idea is that one might be made after the outages if the directions were held back, say on a battery-powered laptop. (Feedback and additions, particularly from actual campers, welcome.)

Commuting to church: D.C., elsewhere tool

The folk wisdom about getting to church is that people will go as far to a church as they will go to work. That makes commuting data important for church plants, but failing that assume that someone won't take more than a half-hour to get there.

There's a new interesting tool that maps how far someone in Washington, D.C. and a few other cities -- Boston, Seattle, Dallas, New York and Chicago, among others; and Berlin, London, Auckland and Perth overseas -- can get in a certain amount of time on foot and using transit. Important, too, because I have a hard time thinking the suburban "temple in a sea of asphalt" will fare well in a city, or that even near-suburban congregations can depend on this unfortunate staples of American religious life. (That said, it's been more than a decade since I was a member of church that I had to drive to, so I'm a bit of an outlier.)

Enough for the lead-in; the resource is Mapnificent, or to start directly with Washington, D.C.

Two blog posts on mission and ministry

If you don't keep up with the Quaker blogosphere, you might miss two valuable blog posts about mission, ministry and how these speak to generational change, resources and burnout.

Micah, for those counting, is a Quaker minister, with the Capitol Hill Friends worship group I mentioned last time. You can also follow them as micahbales and martin_kelley on Twitter.

Where I buy clothes

I like my clothes to be hard wearing, plain cut and American made, with union made as a plus. Also, I won't buy any more leather. After years of searching here and there, suffering poor quality or poor service, I have settled on a few vendors, including one whose parcel arrived today.

For pants, jeans, white socks, polo shirts and some t-shirts, I choose All American Clothes; I may have also gotten my last jacket there. For oxford shoes, I go with Pangea's "No Bull" house line, and for more fun ones (European made) I go with Vegetarian Shoes sold by MooShoes. For dress shirts, I get Canadian- and union-made Forsyths from, but may branch out to Pennsylvania- and union-made Gitman shirts that I can get through a men's store in Athens, Georgia, my college town. (And yes, they're expensive. Indeed, the only place I've seen them otherwise for sale in a store is in Paris.) But the as much as I think ethical sourcing is important, so to is taking care in choosing and maintaining clothes. Cheap clothes, badly chosen, are no bargain.