Tuesday, February 24, 2009


From a seminar I attended several months ago in Omaha.

"Permaculture Principles are based on close observation of nature, traditional sustainable agriculture systems earth sciences and common sense.

There are 10 primary design principles:

1) Diversity
Aim to integrate a variety of beneficial species of food, plants and animals. This builds a stable and interactive polycultural system which provides for human needs and also the needs of other species.

2) Edge Effect
There is more life on the edge where two systems overlap. Systems can then access the resources of both. Use the edge effect and other natural patterns you observe to create the best effect. There are no straight lines in nature.

3) Energy Planning
Place things in a permaculture design to minimize the use of energy (your own and fossil fuels). Also, utilize the energy and resources you have both on-site and from outside as effectively as possible. This also saves you time, energy and money.

4) Energy Cycling
In a natural system there is no waster or pollution- the output from one natural process is always the resource for another natural process. Recycle and reuse your local resources as many times as possible within your polycultural system.

5) Scale
Create human-scale systems. Choose simple, appropriate and effective technologies. Do as much as you are able. Start small and take achievable steps to reach your goal successfully. Create groups which enable people to feel they can actively participate, be involved in the decision making and feel a connection to and ownership of the process.

6) Biological Resources
Use natural methods and processes to achieve a task. Find things in nature (plants, animals, microbes, etc.) that enjoy doing the task and minimize the inputs required from outside. This creates a healthy system and healthy people.

7) Multiple Elements
Support each vital need and essential function in more than one way.

8) Multiple Functions
Everything has many uses and functions. In permaculture we aim to design so that every element performs at least 3 functions.

9) Natural Succession
Work with nature and the processes of natural systems. Facilitate natural growth and help to accelerate it naturally.

10) Relative Location
Every element is placed in relationship to others so they can benefit each other. Create supportive environments by placing things together which help to develop a self-sustaining system, which replicates a natural ecosystem. From a functional perspective- those things used together, place together. This allows more efficient use of a space and minimisation of your energy in utilising these resources."

More on Urinals (Offensive Language)

So two more things puzzle me about urinals (refer to a previous post about a urinal's piss-poor physics).

1) Why do advertisers put rubber advertising mats to put in the base of urinals? Advertisements on the top of the urinal (just under the handle) or even something on the wall would be great. Nothing says 'quality company' like something that is pissed on multiple times each day. I can't tell you the number of times, I have thought....Dang, I can't wait to eat at Momma's while reading their urinal advertisement.

2) I don't really get why many urinals and toilets have "American Standard" stamped on them. Even if that is the name of the company that produces the urinal and toilet, do you really want "American Standard" to be synonymous with pissers? Really? How about stamping "American Standard" on a rocket ship to Mars or something?

So to honor this oddity, I thought of some other slogans "American Standard" could employ:

"American Standard. We also create shit holes (septic tanks)."
"When you finally want to give a crap, call American Standard."
"American Standard. 20 years ago, these were all actually made by Americans. Now they are made by the Chinese. See how we're moving up?"
"American Standard. We stamp this on our toilets so you don't have to."
"American Standard. We serve as a really good metaphor for the economy. When you think of the economy, think of the pisser."

Feeling Punitive Towards Banks and Bailouts

I have felt less like giving banks a bailout (because of moral hazard) and preferred letting them go under, no matter the short term effect on our economy. In my worst moments, I have thought about hauling the lot of them off to jail. Someone steals $25 and they are thrown in jail. Steal $50 billion and it's only a downpayment on the money the government will give you. I know that is an unfair simplification.

Anyway, I have been strongly in favor of no bailouts for banks and other financial institutions. As an industry, I find them incredibly irresponsible in the leverage they used to finance their profits and predatory against the poor.

For banks, let them fail. Banks have at their disposal two instruments that can help homeowners stay in their homes, and thereby keep themselves (banks) in a better financial position, but have not started to offer them until under the force of government pressure.

1. Banks can renegotiate the interest rates of the mortgages they service. If they put a customer in an ARM that has recently ballooned, allow the homeowner to refinance at a fixed rate 30 year term to reduce the monthly payments. This could be offered to all, not just to those with lots of equity in their homes.

2. If a house is worth less than the mortgage and a homeowner is tempted to walk away from the home, a bank can issue a warrant (I don't know very much about this term), where the value of the home is reduced on a temporary basis. The mortgage payments would also be reduced to take this into account. If the house returns to its previous value in a certain amount of time, the house value and mortgage payments are returned to normal. For instance, if a homeowner bought a house for $200,000 but is now worth only $150,000, the bank can reduce the value of the mortgage to $150K with the provision that if climbs back to $200K in 3 -5 years then the mortgage would be revised back to $200K.

I know that banks are responsible to shareholders and they might need shareholder approval, but options #1 and #2 seem preferable to foreclosures...especially since one foreclosure in an area has a high correlation with future foreclosures.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Back from Nepal

I arrived back last night from Nepal. So tired. I had a wonderful time there and feel blessed.

I have less than a week before I leave for Bolivia. So much to do logistically, but want to put all that off to see people.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Meaningful Celebration

Last night, I was honored again for my service with WMF, as I was presented with gifts from all of the WMF communities around the world. This marked the last celebration after previous celebrations by the Board and by the US staff; I hope to include pictures as soon as I return from Nepal.

I am humbled and deeply grateful to the many WMF communities for the thoughtfulness, the effort, the love and care that was put into each gift. Accompanying these gifts were many cards and kind words.

I received among many other things: a painting from Romania with all of children's handprints from the Center, several photo albums with pictures of their communities and kind words from staff members and children, Argentinian wine and LPs, a Sari Blanket from Kolkata with colors chosen specifically for me, some beautiful hammocks from Brazil and Sierra Leone, a shirt and silk wrap from Chennai, a blanket for carrying "life"...whether it be vegetables or babies..from Bolivia, a mosaic art piece from Peru taken from discarded bus tickets that demonstrates the restoration we hope for in WMF, among many, many other thoughtful gifts.

My love goes out to all the WMF communities. I cannot tell them how much their thoughtfulness, but more importantly their life and example have meant to me.

I was specifically honored, but I want to honor the hundreds of years of service of the WMF staff and their sacrifices, dedication, and love in some of the hardest places in the world. It is a community of people following Jesus in service and obedience that deserve the honor.

Awkward Moments in this Nepal Trip

1. Somehow, men being naked in steam rooms is SO different than men being naked in a hot tub. (at least from a US cultural perspective). A Japanese man disrobed to get into the hot tub I was in, only to see I still had swim trunks on. He politely got out, put some trunks on, and re-entered the hot tub.

2. We traveled for 40 some hours to get to Nepal. Liz was anxiously looking forward to seeing her boyfriend Calvin when he greeted us at the airport. They have not been able to see each other for some time and are, of course, missing each other tremendously. There were several of us traveling together, so with luggage, needed a car and a van. I saw that the luggage was largely being put into the van, so I hurried over to the car to find the most leg room (I'm tall.) I sat in the back seat behind the driver (Nepalis drive in the English way, so, on the right side). I heard Liz say: "Brent, would you like to come up to the front seat for more leg-room?" Me: "No, that's okay". Liz: "No, Brent, come and sit in the front seat. Calvin and I want to sit next to each other." Me: "OHH" ....

Then into action...feverishly trying to get out the back door...door handle doesn't work. Okay...go out the other side. The back-pack strap is caught in the door and I'm snapped back into place. Roll down window and release outside handle and move as quickly as possible into front seat. Me: "Sorry about that".

3. My new shoes smell like monkey doo. Since I stepped in it. But monkey see, monkey doo a lot of here.

4. As we were walking through the forest preserve, the guide told us to walk down an upcoming 'path'. We were fairly high up at this point, and I kept waiting for the path to become visible as we approached. Nope. Just a cliff. Evidently a landslide took out the path a month before. Take a different way.

5. During this walk, I saw about 50 monkeys in a colony of sorts. They were doing all sorts of things....sometimes to each other. One monkey looked like he was giving a doctor's exam to another monkey.

6. During the trip, I spoke outloud when I speculated how much fuel and $ airlines would save each year by making people take bowel movements before their flights.

7. I also speculated outloud, if my travel companions had ever heard of the insides of pillows being made from human hair. They hadn't.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

I have friends who believe in one or more of the following:

Which ones do you agree with and which ones would you add to the list?

1) Kennedy wasn't assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.
2) Tupac is still alive.
3) The US moon landing never happened.
4) 9/11 reported facts are different than the actual events that transpired.
5) Elvis is still alive
6) A select secret organization runs the country. (Trilateral Commission, Illuminati, etc.)
7) Our country's founding methodology (currency, city planning, etc) was formed by the Masons.
8) Fidel Casto betrayed Che....leading to Che's death in Bolivia by the CIA.
9) Drugs were purposefully sent by the US gov't to the inner cities to erode the fabric of those communities.
10) There is a cheap energy source out there, that the US oil companies don't want you to find, in order to monopolize profits.
11) Bush deliberately tanked the economy as one more 'screw-you' to John McCain (For his history of animosity, go back to the 2000 Republican primaries where Bush's team suggested McCain was mentally unfit to lead the country because he had been a POW).
12) That there are aliens.
13) That there are aliens among us.
14) That KFC's secret recipe is actually only trans-fats.
15) That much of our historical technological innovations have come from the bad trifecta of porn, the military, and casinos.
16) Found it ironic that Bush would criticize Saddam Hussein for hiding in a hole when he himself hid in a 'hole' the day of 9/11. What is the difference between an underground bunker and a hole?
17) Think T.V. is sending people subliminal messages.
18) That Russia is still poisoning people, assassinating people and generally still acting like a bully around the world. Cold War revived?
19) Believe we are living in the Matrix.
20) Believe it is only a matter of time before the Machines take over.


Tomorrow I head for Nepal as a participant in the WMF Field Forum. The leaders from all of the WMF orgs will be there for 5 days.

This is the first time I will be heading East...through Amsterdam and then Delhi.

I am looking forward to seeing everybody and especially some dear old friends. This might be the last time seeing some folks for a long time.

Please be praying for us during this time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


A few weeks ago, I saw a nightly news program where they highlighted the following dolls, entitled "Reborns".

These dolls are big with collectors, but the news program also showed several ladies who had undergone severe traumas using these dolls as coping mechanisms. One lady, who had seven miscarriages, was taking out her 'reborn' to restaurants and walking the 'reborn' in a stroller for people's reactions. She needed the 'oohs' and 'aahs', the congratulations, and the smiles and connection that happens when a newborn is shown to the world. She liked being asked by people if they could hold the 'baby' and how cute the 'baby' was, etc.

From Wikipedia about reborn dolls:

The technique of reborning a play doll typically involves the following processes:
-The doll is taken apart and factory paint is removed. In the last few years reborn or doll sculptors have began sculpting model babydolls and make vinyl kits that are made specifically for reborning. These kits do not have factory paint, and the doll does not come assembled.
-The exterior is painted using various techniques to add to the appearance of translucent skin tones, with effects such as veins, blotching, and "milk-spots" to resemble the skin of a newborn baby.
-Hair and eyelashes, usually fine mohair or human hair, are applied using rooting tools and felting needles strand by strand, which can take up to 30+ hours per head.
-The original vinyl body is replaced with a soft stuffed and weighted body. The vinyl body can also be cut in half to create front and back 'plates' to allow mounting of the doll to photograph or display the doll.
-A magnet may be attached inside the mouth for attaching a bottle

There are plenty of sites that show & sell 'reborns' so just put it into your search engine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interesting Phrases

-Casino Capitalism (Mohammed Yunus asking whether this defines the US version of capitalism)

-Genocide of Apathy (Regarding the lack of any worldwide response to Darfur)

-A dis-assembly line (From Cradle to Cradle; During the Great Depression, Henry Ford had a disassembly line where workers would take apart cars because the value of resources inside them was too valuable to discard).

-Eco-leasing (From Cradle to Cradle; Knowing that the value and harm of various goods we've purchased cannot be safely discarded or used properly after it's product life is complete, manufacturers can begin to lease products and receive those products back, where they would disassemble the products and reconstitute them for new products. Consumers could also pay for a certain length of time to use a product).

-Spiritual dominatrix (My own term describing a specific kind of relationship that can be exhibited between a spiritual director and powerful person. The Christian spiritual director normally mentors another Christian and their time together can be focused on prayer, Scripture, etc. A spiritual director who mentors leaders and who might suspect a control issue can attempt to thwart that tendency; I have heard of spiritual directors who may purposefully start late, end early, create an uncomfortable office environment, leave on an errand, etc. and give homework that the leader feels uncomfortable doing....all with the intent that leaders who are accustomed to 'having their own way' and controlling their environments might cede some of their control specifically in their relationship with God and particularly reliquish 'achieving' anything in said relationship).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pittsburgh, PA

I arrived back in Omaha yesterday afternoon after a great trip to Pittsburgh to visit my best friend, Ben, from college.

I redeemed some frequent flyer miles and was gone Friday through Monday. I had a wonderful time visiting and the whole family is awesome. They were all so kind and we spent hours talking and drinking tea.

Ben, Becky, Sofia, and John are in the first photo.

The second photo shows the Pittsburgh downtown skyline.

The third photo shows the Heinz Memorial Chapel, which has beautiful stained glass. The funny thing about this chapel is that it is quasi religious and quasi patriotic. The stained glass showed lots of famous church figures plus famous US personalities....so there could be a picture of Christ, Francis Asbury, Abraham Lincoln, and Louis Pasteur.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Proposed Renewal of the Day of Fasting and Prayer

On July 09, 1812, President James Madison proposed a Day of Fasting and Prayer for the US. I believe reviving this day could be an important counter-point to Thanksgiving in November. As a country, it is good that we are considered hopeful and optimistic. We could also do with a measure of self-reflection.

When Madison created this proclamation, The United States was under specific threat from the British, who would burn Washington DC. Madison's entire statements typically asked for blessing against adversaries and portrayed US as the more devout. However, I believe the underlying sentiments of penitence are still important for our/every country.

An abbreviated transcript follows (What I thought could be carried to today):

Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses, have signified a request that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of public humiliation and prayer; and
Whereas such a recommendation will enable the several religious denominations and societies so disposed to offer at one and the same time their common vows and adorations to Almighty God....

I do therefore recommend the third Thursday in August next as a convenient day to be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of Mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness and His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment, and especially of offering fervent supplications that in the present season of calamity and war.. He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion to do to others as they would require that others should do to them; and, finally, that... He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of peace.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Movie Theater

I was at the movie theater the other day and used the restroom. I do not like it when the automatic sensor (flusher) is on the fritz. The toilet flushed two times while I was sitting on it, effectively making it a very unsanitary bidet.

If I wanted to have water squirted up my rear, I'd pay a lot of money for it, and I'd be in France.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Last Day at the Office

The WMF community continues to offer some of the best hospitality and celebration that I've ever seen. This entire week was a celebration culminating in a formal dinner Friday night that was catered by The Taj, my favorite Indian restaurant.

Monday, I was showered with balloons. Tuesday, the Admin. department took some time away from the office to celebrate. Friday, we received donuts and chocolate milk in the morning and went out for Mexican food at lunch.

During the evening, after a prayer, a toast was made and we ate together. A picture slide presentation was given of my years in WMF and a book was made to commemorate that time as well (with both pictures and loving notes included at the end). Gifts were given and kind words were shared.

I was humbled and grateful to have been part of such a kind community and a community giving of itself in such a self-sacrificing and worthy manner. I was honored and incredibly appreciative of the love that evening and the care I received. I am in awe.
I will be cheering you on.

You are loved.