Sunday, September 30, 2007

Heard about Kiva?

Bill Clinton has been hitting the talk show circuit promoting his book about ways people, whether rich or not rich, can help change the lives of people around the world. I haven't bought the book, but I did go to a web site he recommended: Kiva.

I love the idea of this organization. I loved the idea when I heard about Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for last year. For 30 years he was one of the world's great micro-credit lenders. He made over 7 million loans, 97 percent to village women and had a 98.5 percent payback rate. But, not being a bazillionaire, I never dreamed that I could do anything like that.

Kiva has erased the need for "wealth" in order to help the poor. Clinton gave an interview to Greta Van Sustern of Fox News ('s Fox, but it's still an informative interview). Here's an excerpt from that interview which explains what Kiva does:

VAN SUSTEREN: How much money are you talking about?

CLINTON: As little as $25. You are talking about a lot of this money is loaned to people in countries with a per capita income of less than a dollar a day. You can see basket-makers and weavers in Africa. You can see a guy in Kabul, Afghanistan, who repaired radios.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if I go on and give $25, I can actually track to see how it changes someone's life?

CLINTON: Yes. If you go on Kiva, you can give as little as $25, almost nobody gives more than $300 or $400. And you may — let's suppose you pick a basket cooperative in Rwanda, and they want to get together after the horrible problems of a decade ago and bring people together across ethnic lines and make baskets and market them.

Let's suppose they need to borrow $400, well, you can either — you can give them $400, but you can give $25 and then eventually, let's say, 10 or 15 together will provide the $400. Then you loan them the money through a local group in Rwanda, and they report back in and pay the money back.

And every couple of weeks you can go back to Kiva and get a report as if you were their banker. They will report in, how are we doing with your money? How is our business doing? Are they repaying the loan?

Then when the loans are paid, you can take your money back or turn around and pick someone else to loan it to.

Seems so simple, doesn't it? It's such a cool idea because you don't have to be a rich person to help someone else. You can choose the entrepreneur you want to help. You can choose the area of business. You can choose the country. And you can make a difference with only $25, a little less than price of Clinton's book!

When I checked out Kiva last night, the featured entrepreneur was a woman from Paraguay named Celsa Cabrera. She was requesting $1,000 for a meat shredder for their grocery store. They were so close to matching her request that I donated $25 and by the time I had made the payment, two other people had also made donations, which put her at her goal. Twenty-four people from four different countries had joined together to raise the money.

The thing I liked about this woman was that not only had she and her husband started this business when the company her husband worked for had to close, putting him out of business, but they have made it a point to employ other people in similar straits, so they are not only improving their lives, but the lives of others around them.

I think we can only be enriched by helping others. I hope some people reading this journal entry will give some thought to checking out Kiva and becoming partners with people across the world who just need a little helping hand to become self-sustaining.

There is a great video in the New York Times web page about Kiva here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Read a Banned Book

The week of September 29 through October 6, 2007, marks the 26th anniversary of Banned Books Week, The American Library Association's annual celebration of the freedom to read.

This annual event serves to remind Americans not to take for granted their precious freedom to express one's opinions, even or perhaps especially when those opinions are unorthodox or unpopular. Libraries are deeply committed to the concept of Intellectual Freedom which includes both the right to believe what you choose and to express those beliefs and to have unrestricted access to information and ideas, regardless of the viewpoints expressed or the medium through which they are communicated.

If you desire, mention your favorite banned books in the guestbook of my friend Alan's blog page by 5pm Pacific Time on Sunday September 30th and he will include them in Monday's post "Banned Books Chosen By Readers Of This Blog". Choose your ten from the list of most frequently challenged books or Google "banned books" and you'll be amazed at how many lists you find!

In this day and age, when our freedoms are being whittled away, bit by bit, piece by piece, it's nice to think about how widespread censorship could really go.

I found a list of lots of banned books and chose some of my own in no particular order. I think it's good to remind ourselves of what people who want to censor our reading material

"I know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou has been questioned because of the graphic depiction of a rape. Must we now sugar coat everything? Is truth too offensive to allowed on our bookshelves? Should we not know that magnificent people can rise from the ashes of terrible, traumatic circumstances? The book has been removed from the required reading list in the Annapolis, MD school system.

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, which is said to contain "racial slurs, profanity, violence and does not represent traditional values" The book is a beautiful story of friendship and platonic love between men, the caring of one for the other. What a crime it would be if this story were to be banned. (My very favorite Steinbeck book, "East of Eden" is also on a banned list.)

"Blubber" and "Are you There, God, It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume. I read all of the books Blume had written at the time that our kids discovered them because there was such controversy surrounding them. Blume treats subjects that kids deal with every day (in the first book, weight problems, in the second going through puberty, specifically getting your first period) in an open, frank, and honest way that appeals to kids. I'm sure many a child or young adult has felt better about him/herself after reading her books.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. What is it with the classics? There are those would would ban this book because of its honest depiction of race relations and, again, description of a rape. You don't make a lasting impression by shying away from difficult subjects. There is a reason why this is a treasured book (and why there is a statue in honor of Attacus Finch erected on the grounds of the Ulster County Courthouse in New York).

"Where's Waldo" Apparently this book is on the list because somewhere in one of the drawings, if you look hard enough, you can find a topless woman.

See her? Is this a reason to ban a book??? How sick a society are we anyway?

"Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. I don't know why this one is banned. Magnificent historical novel of the building of a cathedral in England. Perhaps too much truth involved in the double-dealing of the clergy? I read it before going to tour Salisbury Cathedral and it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of that edifice and my understanding of the whole idea of towns growing up around the building of cathedrals or monestaries.

The state of Virginia wanted to ban "Ann Frank" because of sexually explicit passages (anybody remember those?) and the state of Alabama wanted it be banned because it was "a real downer." (From Forbidden Library: Banned & Challenged Books). Of course those two particular challenges were made in the 1980s. I hope we have progressed a little since then!

My favorite story from that site, though is the banning of The Bible: "William Tyndale, who partially completed translating the Bible into English, was captured, strangled, and burned at the stake (1536) by opponents of the movement to translate the bible into the vernacular. Beginning around 1830, "family friendly" bibles, including Noah Webster's version (1833) began to appear which had excised passages considered to be indelicate."

I guess you can find someone to object to everything if you search hard enough.

Go find a good banned book and flaunt your enjoyment of it!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mabel's Last Day?

Mabel seems particularly cute today. I don't know if she's really that cute, or if it's just that wistful feeling, realizing that she's going to Petco tomorrow and, if anybody has any sense, she'll find a "forever home" and we won't see her again.

The nice thing about having a singleton puppy, especially as they start getting bigger, is that Lizzie has a new playmate. When they first get here, they are too little and she often hurts them, briefly. But as they gain strength, especially if they are as feisty as Mabel, they think they are one of the big guys. One thing I've learned--dogs have no concept of relative size!

I can't count the number of times Mabel has yelped when Lizzie nips her and then turns around and leaps at Lizzie, to continue play.

I watch the three dogs file out the partially opened sliding glass door (I've shut off the dog door until Mabel leaves because I really don't want her in my office, so I just leave the back door open all the time) and it looks like The Three Bears going for a walk. First goes Sheila, then Lizzie, and then Mabel taking up the rear.

The big dogs get treats when I leave, and when I come back. Mabel has figured that out too and she sits and waits for her own treat. It's so cute watching these three pal around together.

Part of me hopes that she won't find a "forever family" her first time out. I'd like to keep her a bit longer, but the younger she is, the better her chances and who could resist that cute face? I want her to have her own family...but I'm enjoying "borrowing" her for right now.

I Flunk "Bleeding"

The last time I gave blood, I expressed a passing interest in platelet donation and asked what the process was. It's a longer procedure. You're hooked up to a machine for a little over an hour. It takes your blood, strips the platelets from it, and then returns the red blood cells back to your body. While this is going on, they also hook you up to a DVD player and you watch a movie from a list of DVDs that they give you.

Sounded good to me. A noble reason to sit and watch TV for an hour and a half, and a donut when it's all over. What's not to like?

The intake procedure is the same except they weigh you. This is when I found out that I'm not dying of some strange wasting disease. My bathroom scale has shown a steady loss of weight over the past two months, despite no change in my bad eating habits. I didn't mind, of course, losing 12 lbs in 2 months, but it did worry me a bit. However, I found those 12 lbs on the Blood Source scale, so I guess I'm not going to be collapsing because of rapid weight loss soon.

After the intake, you get a nice truffle to take home with you, and when you come back for the 6th time you get a licenseplate holder. Cool. I was already envisioning it on the car.

You get into a chair similar to the whole blood donation chair and they give you something to read that lists all the possible bad things that can happen to you during the procedure. But I am invincible. I knew nothing like that would happen to me. They said that you often feel cold when the blood is being returned to you, so they covered me up with a thick blanket, though I was already warm.

I chose Dreamgirls to watch on my personal DVD player and settled back while they poked and prodded and stuck me with a needle, took blood samples and set up the machine to strip my blood of all of its platelets.

I was into the movie, so I wasn't aware that the machine was beeping and flashing a red light. A nurse came over and punched buttons and got another small blanket to cover my arm so that it would stay warm, though it didn't feel cold at all. She also gave me Tums in a cup in case I felt any of a number of symptoms (none of which I did. I am invincible, remember?)

The machine started beeping again and someone plopped one of those heat-in-the-microwave pads down on my chest. It was Very. Hot. but they said they needed to warm my body up. Strange, since I didn't feel any sensation of cold.
Soon the machine was beeping angrily again and this time I had a team of people working over me. Checking the needle, checking the machine, and having a big High Level discussion about whether my vein was about to "blow" or not.

They finally decided that my vein had started leaking and I was developing a bruise. This is Not Good. So the only thing they could do was to remove the needle and use my other arm instead.

I've been poked and prodded a lot in my lifetime and have always been rather proud of my good veins. But, on reflection, I realize that it was always the same vein. Apparently my one good vein. Singular. When they tried to find a suitable vein in my left arm, though they punched and poked and had me squeeze something and used the sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff), they still could only find a small vein that they figured would "blow" if they attempted to use it for the procedure.

Ultimately, they decided that today was not my day to donate platelets. I felt like I had failed veins or something. They assured me it wasn't my fault, thanked me for coming in, suggested I continue to donate whole blood instead of platelets and directed me to the donut table for my snack.

Owell. I gave it the old college try. But now I have to go out and get Dreamgirls because I was just starting to get into the story! But at least I got donut (and a truffle)...and a nice nap in the afternoon.

If you want to hear something funny, go to this page, scroll down to where it says "Not My Job: Kevin Clash and Elmo" and click on it to play the audio. This was my favorite guest on "Wait, Wait." It's 12 minutes and very funny, especially toward the end. Clash is amazing.

Starting again

Years ago, I wrote a newspaper column called "Airy Persiflage" (defined as "light, frivolous banter."). The term comes from The Mikado, where Koko asks, "Is this a time for airy persiflage?"

I am realizing that by keeping a journal which is NOT in the "blogger" system, I am losing out on potential readers, so this journal is going to just duplicate what I post in my other journal and will allow for entries to be followed via rss or other feed.