Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Simplicity & the Economy of Action

I'm beginning to really associate with the character of "Dwight" on the NBC series "The Office"—efficiency is his middle name and "direct" may be the best adjective to describe him. Where is this all going? Just a rumination on the economy of action and its relation to simplicity. When you organize and simplify your life, you learn to maximize your time. I think now I find myself weighing options more for their overall benefits. If I ride my bike to work, I kill 2 birds with the one stone, I get to my destination and I accomplish my exercise goal for the day. If I leave my computer at work, I don't have to shuttle it in and out of the car. Granted the trunk of my car is beginning to look like a satellite apartment with all the stuff I've got in there now, but I know that I am prepared for the unexpected trip from work to the gym to the beach to the mountains. And though I have a vacuum, I'm justifying my purchase today of the Roomba knowing that now vacuuming will actually get done now...more than once a month. Work smarter, not harder is Dwight's motto, and I think it may be mine too.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Recycling: The BIOTA Bottle

Water is crucial to our health and most people don't drink enough, but if you're like me, you drink water like it's ... well, water but loathe the fact that over the past few years it's become a tremendous waste of resources and expense. Working in production, we go through palettes of water a day. (On the most recent shoot day, the craft services gal bought cases of 8 oz bottles which we nicknamed "Baby Waters" because they are so ridiculously small that one bottle doesn't even quench your thirst.) I often suggest that they set up the water cooler style jugs on set, but the cases of single bottles usually win out for convenience. On set recycling is always non-existent. Very frustrating.

But today I came across the BIOTA bottle, a Colorado spring water company who's bottle is made entirely from corn plastic and biodegrades within 80 days when placed in a composting facility. As of now, BIOTA has a very small toe-hold on the ladder of bottled waters, but could you imagine what would happen if Coke (Dasani) or Pepsi (Aquafina) switched their waters to corn plastic bottles? Just thinkin' on a Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Am I Doing Enough?

Having a hum drum day (as usually happens when I have too much time on my hands) and I start to wonder ... am I doing enough? I always take the stairs instead of the elevator. I bring apple cores home for the composting worms. I drive a hybrid and use my bike on short errands whenever I can. I haven't used a clothes dryer in 8 years. I reduce, I reuse, I recycle.

But is it enough? Am I compensating for that mother of 6 in middle America who shops at Wal*Mart, feeds her kids McDonalds 3 times a week, as she shuttles them long distances in her under 20 mpg SUV? Am I compensating for 10 people? 100? or not even my own lapses in judgment?

This too shall pass I'm sure. But today I'm in a funk

Monday, May 22, 2006

Simplicity & Sleep Deprivation

So I have one of those freelance jobs where I spend the first 3 weeks doing nothing but personal business with the intention of making myself look busy, but being on call for any actual work that comes up. The 4th week is when everything kicks into gear, one of those weeks when it feels like it should be Friday and it's Tuesday at 10 am. Last week had the distinction of being the first time in my illustrious career that I worked a 40 hour shift. Wasn't expecting that, so I would have probably prepared better. Water is key hydration to the double shift, and only water. I'm still working out some of the dehydration from that, 4 days later. Second recommendation is to get your affairs in order. Look ahead on your calendar, cross everything you can off your to do list and settle in so that you can focus only on the job in front of you. And vacuum before the week starts, cuz nobody wants you running the vac at midnight.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bike to Work Week! pt. 2

Work biked to? Check. Fortunately it's not called "Bike Home From Work Week" because there's probably not a chance in hell I'm getting out before midnight tonight. Thank heavens for co-workers that are also neighbors. The ride was slightly dicey, but I'm glad I took the longer way around the mountain (instead of trying to find where the squiggly lines that went up and over the mtn were). Turned out to be under a 10 mile ride, took me probably less than an hour door to door. Definitely going to schedule another ride next week when the hours are less chaotic.

To answer the comment, where can you ride in LA without endangering your life with traffic? There are actually hundreds of miles of bike lanes and paths that I have never felt uncomfortable riding on. But, Los Feliz Blvd at 8 am on a work day... that's another story. The condition of the roads in Hollywood? I'm lucky I didn't lose a tire. The air quality riding up a hill that comes off a freeway off ramp? I'll be sneezing particulates for the rest of the day. Now that I know a quick way, I can tweak the route so that it's less stressful.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bike to Work Week!

It is that time of year again, y'all, when ordinary citizens throw open their dusty garages and roll their creaky old ten speeds out into the streets. The highways are deserted and the skies are clean. Everyone seems slightly more jovial even as they complain about superficial aches from using muscles they forgot they had. Ah. Sigh. One can dream, can't they? But it 'tis the League of American Bicyclist's "National Bike Month," and this week is specifically Bike-to-Work Week, with Bike-to-Work Day falling specifically on Friday, May 20th. I myself try to maintain the tradition, even though my job requires me to shuttle my laptop between home and work each morning and evening, and this week we begin production on a new series meaning longer and more exhausting hours. Still... I would like to give it a try—got out the old Thomas Guide last night and I'm up for the adventure of trying to navigate the hills of Griffith Park to get "over the hill" dodging as little high speed traffic as possible. I'm also going to force myself to participate in Sunday's 70 mile LA River Ride to Long Beach and back ride to support the LA County Bicycle Coalition. Saddle up kids, we're going for a ride.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Doc Review: An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Okay, let's start this review with the admission that I am entirely biased in favor of Al Gore and I fully realize that the those who see it will be members of the "preaching to the converted" crowd. I haven't seen the documentary yet, but I sat in the audience for the taping last fall in Los Angeles and listened with shock and awe as Al talked for 2 hours about climate change and global warming. (we'll overlook the fact that we were in a Hollywood studio airconditioned to the point of approximately 55ยบ, that's me in the corner, teeth chattering.)

I have done extensive research on climate change and the photographs and information he presented absolutely floored me. Glaciers that have disappeared. Lakes that have dried up. Species that are now extinct. Picture after picture after picture of what global warming has done to the precious balance of our ecology.

One thing I will be looking for when I do see it is that he has added some more solutions to help you and me get back on the path to controlling the amount of carbon dioxide we produce. During the taping he was about 1:50 "what's wrong with the world"/10 minutes "here's what we can do to make it better". The filmmakers have already pledged $100,000 to climate neutral charities and have promised more if the film makes more money than expected.

I hope that schools will show this to children and foster a dialogue. I hope at least a few people who would never have considered seeing this documentary will go and think twice about some of their destructive actions. I hope the converted will be motivated to take their conserving actions even just one step further.

For the lighter side of Al, check out Al's appearance on SNLthis weekend.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

M is for the Many Things...

In case you haven't watched television advertising for the past month, today is Mother's Day. It seems this year more than others every product or service is adapting themselves to hit that "Buy or you don't love your Momma" nerve. Cell Phones? Check. Outback Steakhouse? Check. So in the spirit of anti-consumerism, I take this space today to relay the things that my mothers gave to me without using their pockies, but the goodness of their hearts.

To my mother, first and foremost for my creativity. Maybe it was the fabric cabinet that my mother kept in the laundry room, with scraps from every dress or curtain she made that sparked a desire to sew and craft and save even the smallest scrap because you never knew what you will need it for. Or maybe it was the never-ending home renovation projects to never stop dreaming. Or maybe it was because she was a stay at home mom (Just kidding!) But let's not forget the drive to never quit and to finish (eventually!) everything you start.

To my Worcester Grammy for keeping the "Use it Up, Wear it Out, or Do with Out" mentality alive. From the magic button tin, to the appliances kept working from the late '50s, to realizing that every life needs a touchstone to come home to especially when life gets hectic.

To my Florida Grammy, for my love of nature and taking care of things that grow for the sheer beauty of it. I still remember your snapdragons, your pansies and your tiger lilies.

Thank you all for these invaluable lessons you have taught me have made me who I am today.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Daily 'Strange but True'

On NPR this morning I heard this disturbing fact: hard to believe that a 20 lb wind blower can create as much air pollution as a 1.5 ton car, but that's because it doesn't. Leaf blowers actually create as much pollution as EIGHTY cars. (and even that is a conservative estimate). Does this disturb anyone else? Or is it just me who lives in a world where everyone's yard is manicured by a Latino with a gas powered jet pack? Buy a freakin' rake, people.

In other news, POTUS approval rating: 29%. We're getting down to Truman in the Korean War, or even better, Watergate levels here. How low can he go?

Save the bees!

Those of you who know me, know that I'm a big fan of the bugs. (I'm just gonna call all critters that wriggle and crawl and fly and buzz 'bugs' even though I know that they're all really something different; I was smitten by boys in biology, what do you want?) I love worms, catepillars, I saw this red velvet ant while hiking last weekend that was one of the most amazing creatures I'd ever seen, I even have a sense of awe and respect for the cockroach (after finding one once I didn't have the stomach to squash it, instead I put it in a plastic container with the thought it would suffocate—4 days later, it was STILL ALIVE.) I also started a strange but true campaign in 6th grade that divided the girls and boys called "Save the Flies!" Girls: pro-fly, boys: anti-fly. (I think it was something I saw on You Can't Do That on Television; man I loved that show.) But of all the critters in the insect kingdom, I have to say bees are my all-time favorite—one of the most beneficial creatures on earth, responsible for pollinating, creating wax and who doesn't love honey? So when I arrived home last night imagine my dismay at seeing some sort of trap hanging from my outdoor light. Apparantly wife of Bldg Owner (who lives on the premises) had finally discovered the bees that were living in the outside wall of the building next to my front door. Now these bees have been living peacefully (and entertaining Adventure Kitty who sits at the window all day watching them come and go) for at least 2 months. I respect their business (read The Voice of the Infinite in the Small: Revisioning the Insect-Human Connection by Joanne Elizabeth Lauck for more on how you too can communicate with bugs!) and they in turn didn't try to sting me when I came home from work. But now, the trap. It's a hanging bag of water with some sort of sandy substance at the bottom, presumably so that the bees will dip into the water, whatever the toxin is will be carried back to their nest. Since I like bees considerably more than I like my neighbors, I decided there needed to be a pin hole in the bag. Water is dripping out as we speak.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Doc Review: Go Further (2004)

With almost 300 movies in my Netflix queue, it takes awhile to get to some of them...with that said...Go Further is the documentary of actor/activist Woody Harrelson's journey by bike and biodiesel-fueled bus from Seattle to Santa Barbara, CA following the Pacific Coast Highway (and the path of the 1960's Merry Pranksters), stopping along the way to educate college students and ordinary citizens about the state of a planet in crises. The doc was a little light on actual information, (other than the repeated fact that milk contains blood and pus, yum!) but it was interesting to watch Steve, a young production assistant that Woody plucked from his stint on Will & Grace along for the ride, but who still sneaks candy bars. But he's trying and seems smitten by Woody's lifestyle of raw food, yoga and natural fibers. Also interesting was Linda (the college student that Steve "kidnaps") as a wide-eyed easily influenced, but willing participant. Overall, it was a little flimsy—no one topic was covered comprehensibly (and how did they get those three teens on crystal meth to sign releases?) but Woody is true to his convictions and it's nice to see an actor walking the walk. "Make small transformations within all of us, then ... go further."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Simplicity & the End?

In loving memory of Gregg Gour
I composed this post last night as I was out for a walk, when I had the overwhelming feeling that he was gone. (It's possible I was actually walking past the hotel where he chose to end his life) But as Gregg told us all many times before he left us, he didn't want our pity and he didn't want our sadness. Now as I actually sit down to type knowing officially that he is gone, realizing that an email sent yesterday was actually his way of saying he was really gone, I can't think of what I meant to write. I have been very fortunate in my life to have so very few experiences with death. When Gregg told me he was going off his meds, I thought immediately what a empowering way to take control of your life/death. None of us can truly know what it felt like to be in his skin living with AIDS for almost 25 years. Was he depressed? To an extent, yes, but he was also in his right mind and had seen too many friends go through the ravages of the disease at the end. And what I take away from this experience is the right to be able to control your own life. How beautiful could it be to have the opportunity to say good-bye to your friends and family? To be in charge of how much pain you have to withstand? To know when it's time?

Who was Gregg to me? He was a boss when we first met, but as the company we both loved and fought for went bankrupt, he continued to be a dear dear friend. He was passionate and compassionate, always giving 110%. When he loved something, you knew it... of course when he hated something you knew that too! He loved working at Warner Brothers (until it began affecting his health so much), in the few times I visited him there, he delighted in showing me where he had seen celebrities and gave me his own studio tour of the sets he was able to sneak on. I looked forward to his emails about the current crop of TV shows that he was watching (His new fall season spreadsheets always made me laugh) and his Oscar and reality show predictions were usually pretty accurate.

He was not ashamed of his condition, and in his final trip across the country over the last few months, he took the time to explain to people about Compassionate Choices (aka the right to die act) and why he was doing it. I like to know that he did make a difference, even in his final days. This article that ran in the Sacramento Bee today sums up what I can't seem to say eloquently enough. I'll miss you Gregg.

Assisted-suicide advocate ends AIDS fight his way
By Laura Mecoy -- Bee Los Angeles Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Story appeared on Page A1 of The Bee

BURBANK - Dying from AIDS, Gregg Gour spent his last three months traveling cross-country and overseas to deliver a final farewell to family and friends and to advocate for assisted-suicide legislation.
Then, with the meticulous planning that was a hallmark of his life, the 48-year-old former accounting supervisor from Los Angeles took his life Sunday night in a Burbank motel room. "Don't cry for me," he said in a final e-mail to family and friends. "At last I'm free."
In a final interview with The Bee, Gour said if the bill had become law, he could have taken an overdose of a sleeping pill prescribed by a doctor and had his family with him when he died.

Instead, Gour had just one friend at his side as he suffocated himself using a method he learned from an organization that advocates assisted suicide.

"I wanted to be there to hold his hand," said Gour's oldest sister, Debra Dannemann. "We all did. We felt we couldn't, and he didn't want us to be there because he was afraid it would implicate us."

Michelle Boyaner, a documentary filmmaker who was with him until minutes before his death, said Gour was happy and calm that the "day was here."

"He was so at peace," she said. "I've never seen anything like it."

A gay man who contracted the AIDS virus through unprotected sex, Gour had lived with the disease for at least 24 of his 48 years.

He decided nearly two years ago that he was tired of fighting the virus and quit his medications.

He said he knew, after nursing others through the final stages of AIDS, that he would take his own life rather than subject himself and his family to a long and agonizing death.

Gour became a spokesman for Assembly Bill 651, a controversial measure that would make it legal for doctors to prescribe drugs for terminally ill patients to hasten their deaths.

A similar bill was shelved for lack of votes last year, but supporters say they are encouraged by a U.S. Supreme Court decision this year that rejected the federal government's bid to block Oregon's assisted-suicide law. The California measure is pending in the state Senate.

Gour lobbied for the Assembly bill in Sacramento in January, just before departing in a recreational vehicle with his dog, Cody, for a cross-country trip he called his "Goodbye and No Regrets Tour."

Despite his frustration with the opposition he encountered in the Legislature, Gour continued to make the case for "compassionate choices" in e-mails, interviews and a documentary in the works about his travels from Los Angeles to his mother's home in East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Opponents of the measure on Monday disputed the idea that Gour's situation made a case for the bill.

Marilyn Golden, policy analyst for the Disability Rights and Defense Fund, said the legislation "sounds like a great idea" in a case like Gour's, where the patient is deciding without any coercion.

But she said the high cost of health care could prompt doctors and families to urge someone to end his or her life before that person is ready.

Or, she said, a terminally ill or disabled person might choose suicide in a moment of depression, rather than waiting for the sadness to lift.

Gour, a man with a big smile and an engaging sense of humor, insisted he was experiencing no depression. Instead, his sister said, he used his final days for others.

He'd long been a volunteer, raising money to fight breast cancer and AIDS and helping other groups.

He said many of those he visited had subsequent discussions with their relatives about how they wished to end their lives and what measures should be used to keep them alive.

"If nothing else comes of this, I want people to have talked about it openly ... because it's going to happen to all of us," he told The Bee nine days before his death.

The trip also gave his family and friends a final chance to say whatever they wished to him in person. He wanted no memorial service.

"It helped them accept my decision to stop taking the meds because they could see I was content, and that I was at peace," he said. "I got to say I loved them, and they got to say they loved me."

He had a family reunion in Detroit with 40 relatives, attended a sister's wedding in Denver and estimated he saw at least 100 people en route to Pennsylvania.

He arrived in Pennsylvania in March, parked his RV and traveled by train and plane to New York City, London and Ireland in a "trip of a lifetime."

"Altogether, I saw 10 shows in New York and 12 shows in London," he said. "I drove around most of Ireland - just not Northern Ireland."

Along the way, he kept a long list of people updated via e-mail detailing, often with a great deal of humor, his travels.

Several urged him to abandon his plans to end his life, and he patiently explained that suicide was preferable to the lingering deaths he'd witnessed while nursing two roommates and a lover through the final stages of AIDS.

As early as 1996, when his therapist persuaded him to write a letter to his disease, he had decided he would choose his death.

"You were winning the battle with my immune system," he wrote to the virus in his body. "But I was going to win in the end, because I would end my life, not you."

He fought the disease for eight more years, benefiting from the strides in AIDS research. But he had to keep changing his medications as the virus developed resistance to each one.

Last year, when his doctor told him his new medication would require twice daily injections, Gour decided he didn't want to fight any more.

With his physician estimating he had just six months to live, Gour set out on his tour in February. He traveled farther than he had originally dared plan.

But on April 11, his legs hurt so much during a four-hour trip that he abandoned his new plans to drive his RV back to Los Angeles. He decided to stay in Pennsylvania with his family.

His breathing became more labored as the days passed. He could barely speak without coughing. Walking became a struggle, and he was in pain.

Dannemann, his oldest sister, said her brother spent his final days doing what he loved: watching movies and tapes of his favorite television shows, and being with his family.

At one point, she said he curled up on the sofa next to his 72-year-old mother, placing his head in her lap and letting her stroke his hair as she had when he was a child.

Gour left his family behind in Pennsylvania and flew to Los Angeles on Sunday to end his life.

On Monday, Dannemann said their mother was struggling with her son's death, even though she'd spent months preparing.

"We were up all night, and she said, 'I'm not supposed to outlive my son,' " Dannemann said.

But Dannemann said she was at peace because she shared her brother's faith in an afterlife.

"The last thing I said to him was I will see him in heaven," she said. "I have God's promise that that is where he's going to be."

As he entered his final days, Gour said he felt God was guiding him throughout his final journey.

"I feel God has completely directed this all along the way," he said. "I have even less doubt, less fear and even less anxiety than I did because I feel this has been coordinated and approved by God."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Required Reading of the Day

Okay kids, here's your reading assignment... don't worry there's lots of pretty pictures to distract you—365 of them to be exact. The photography in 365 Ways to Save the Earth by Philippe Bourseiller is absolutely gorgeous and it's coupled with bite-sized tips on how to be true to the title. One note, it make look small, but it weighs about 15 pounds.

Simplicity & the Weekend

Well this weekend was the first time in a long long time that I was able to get out on my bike to get some errands done. It had to have been almost a year, since I dropped my "Goin' to Market" bike off at my sister's (since hers was stolen; then she promptly popped the tire and it's been sitting idle ever since). It was a great cheap bike, one that I could leave chained up outside and just grab and go whenever I had a quick errand to do. Granted it was often like pedalling uphill through mud with a dead squirrel in the chain, but that was just part of the charm (and exercise). And I've been skittish after the accident about clipping myself in and riding for distance. But it is actually as they say, "just like riding a bike". Back with the Goin' to Market bike, I never thought twice about riding 5 miles with 10 pounds of library books on my back, with the road bike it requires a little more balance. So a good 10 miles on the road bike on Saturday, to the library, the yarn store, the bank and the sporting good store. I feel better already.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Stump the Simplist

So BHodges called at 8:15am today to try and "Stump the Simplist". "What can I do with all these old medical texts that even the bookstore doesn't want?" Hmmm, that is a stumper for sure. I suggested eBay, but even that seems a dubious effort at best. I headed to Google for a little research, and the ideas there were equally as lame. "Make bath toys by cutting pictures out of a magazine and covering them with contact paper, leaving a one-half inch lip around each piece to allow it to seal. When these pieces get wet, they will stick to the bathroom tile." (That's probably not a good idea with medical texts...but with some of the less graphic pictures I'm guessing a flashcard type of game for his young daughter might not be too difficult to make. Nose, Ear, Eye... never too young to start Pre-Med School. But when all else fails, I find the "drop and run" at the library gets the book out of my hands and into the hands of a trained professional. (I'm guessing librarians hate this.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Simplicity & the Finger

So it's been 8 months since the tree fell and broke my finger and I still feel like I'm no where near being done with therapy. (For those of you who missed the tree saga, I've finally uploaded the full story here:The History of the Tree) Had a visit to Doc Cranky Pants yesterday and he was equally unimpressed as to my progress as well. His suggestion, more surgery that may or may not work, will hurt more than the first one, and will probably blow through the remainder of the amount the YMCA's insurance company is giving me. Not to mention that now that this summer show is starting up, I wouldn't have time to do it anyway. So I made a pact with myself, kick my therapy into high gear. I admit I've been babying the finger for a few months now, but now I know that I can't get away with that anymore. I've spent the last 8 months working around the fact that I can't (or probably will never) be able to make a fist again and I believe it is only because of my adaptable and simplified nature that I have been able to do so. So now I'm on the campaign to wear my splint 5 or 6 hours a day instead of just 1.

Drinking with the Brits always makes my finger feel better.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Simplicity & the Weekend

A nice little weekend just concluded: for the first time in a long time I found myself saying, Hmm there's nothing to do. It felt really good, like I had achieved some magical goal of ultimate simplicity. Even better, I was able to steer myself away from boredom just by using what I had in my car while I was out and about. A swim at the gym on Saturday, a nice hike in the nearby hills on Sunday. Kept me out of the malls and stopped me from spending money.

I wish I could say I'm back, hard at work, producing more quality television now... but our office decided to close this morning before I could get in due to its situation amid the parade route for the immigrant protest. So instead I'm at home eating a burrito and drinking a beer in the midafternoon. That's not wrong is it?