Saturday, December 29, 2007

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

In 1998, John Wood, an executive at Microsoft, took a trip to Nepal that would change his life and the lives of countless children forever. During his 18 day trek he visited a school with 70-80 children crammed into a small room with dirt floors and only a few books. He was so depressed by what he saw that he decided to return to the school with books for a new library. In the next few months he collected thousand of books and eventually quit his job at Microsoft to devote all of his time to this project and the non-profit he started called Room to Read. So far he has distributed almost 3 million books, built 287 schools, established 3,600 libraries, and funded over 2,000 scholarships. He has also started local language publishing programs to provide books for children in their native languages. His goal is to build 20,000 new libraries by the year 2020.
Here is a link to this wonderful organization:
Every dollar donated provides 1 book.
He has also written a book called Leaving Microsoft to change the world : an entrepreneur's odyssey to educate the world's children, which was published in 2006 by HarperCollins and is available at HCPL.
I saw him on Oprah last week and she has also put a link to his organization on her website.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Welcome Winter

The December solstice marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere . This year the Winter Solstice occurs on December 22, 2007 at 1:08 AM EST.

Friday, December 21, 2007

This is a picture of an apartment building in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands with windows illuminated in different colors, and is part of a project by artists Marije Vermeulen and Guido Nieuwendijk. The photograph is by Vincent Jannink.


Here's a movie recommendation for all the women out there.

Waitress stars Keri Russell as Jenna, a poor southern woman, married to Earl played by Jeremy Sisto.

Jenna works at a diner where she creates amazing pies which she often names after events in her life like "I Don't Want Earl's Baby" pie, and dreams of one day escaping her miserable life by winning a pie baking contest.

It was written and directed by Adrienne Shelly who also plays one of the other waitresses in the film. It also features Andy Griffith, Nathan Fillion and Cheryl Hines, and was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival.

Buy or make a pie and watch Waitress with your mother, sister, daughter, or girlfriend.

Find a Use for Orphaned Socks

I have to admit that I clicked on this story from because of the cute pug (are there any other kind) but since this is a problem for most of us who wear socks here it is:

It's one of life's greatest mysteries: Two socks enter the washing machine, one sock leaves, its mate gobbled up by laundry goblins. Besides suffer the sartorial indignity of wearing mismatched pairs, what else can you do with an orphan sock that's all by its lonesome? Here are some ideas we've drummed up:
1. Sew a pet bed
2. Make a chew toy
3. Make an animal puppet
4. Protect fragile holiday ornaments when you put them away for the year
5. Sew a sock monkey
6. Use as a rag or furniture-polish cloth
7. Fill with ice for an instant ice pack
8. Make microwavable mitten warmers
9. Use as a whiteboard eraser
10. Send to Operation Happy Sock, where it'll be stuffed with polyfill and catnip for cats at the local animal shelter
11. Whip up some holiday ornaments
12. Donate to One Small Step for humanitarian aid outside the United States
13. Slip a pair over the hands of a nailbiter, or a kid with a rash or hives
14. Protect your MP3 player

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Macaroni Sings the Blues

This recipe from the Whole Foods web site looks so good that, even though I never cook, I may make it for Christmas.

1 pound elbow or shell pasta, cooked al dente
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
2 1/2 cups crumbled Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish or casserole with a tablespoon of the butter. In a large heavy saucepan over medium low heat, melt remaining butter. Add flour, stirring constantly, and cook 1 minute (don’t let it brown). Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer mixture at least 3 minutes, whisking often, until it thickens slightly. Reduce heat to very low, then gradually stir in cheeses, reserving 1/2 cup blue cheese, and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne (if using). Stir in cooked pasta until well coated.

Pour mixture into buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and reserved 1/2 cup blue cheese. Bake until crumbs are browned and cheese is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Info
Per serving (About 6oz/174g-wt.): 380 calories (220 from fat), 24g total fat, 15g saturated fat, 18g protein, 22g total carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 3g sugar), 65mg cholesterol, 720mg sodium

Bill Richardson

It looks like the likely democratic presidential nominee will not be Richardson, but Clinton, Obama, or Edwards. He is however the only one of these four who promises to get all the troops out of Iraq in 2009 if elected. He has set up a web site explaining why the United States can't afford to wait 5+ more years to withdraw from this war which is costing us billions of dollars and thousands of lives. He is asking for donations of $20.13. TV ads are also starting today to bring attention to this issue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Greenrrroof Animal Home

Anyone who know me or reads this blog has probably figured out that my dogs are part of my family and sleep indoors on my bed at night. For humans who aren't lucky enough to have this arrangement with their dogs there is a website

that sells dog houses and some bird houses with green roofs. People have had green roofs for thousand of years but this is the first I've seen for pets. Besides being very attractive and a good conversation piece, the vegetation provides insulation against noise and temperature, smells good, grows plants, repels fleas, and filters water.
If you are interested in doing this for your own home the LC subject headings to look for in you local library are Green roofs (Gardening) or Roof gardening.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Cookies

One of the really nice thing about working at HCPL is being here on the day The Decider brings in his holiday cookies for the entire building. This year there were 9 varieties including his always popular and highly requested Nanaimo Bars. My personal favorite is the Raspberry Almond Bars, or whatever I'm eating at the time. This year he tried a new recipe which has been a big hit with my co-workers (and me).

Here is the recipe which came from the Whole Foods Market website. He changed it up a bit by substituting regular flour for whole wheat and using salted butter, but no salt. He also didn't use parchment paper.

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Cranberries and pecans, two symbols of the fall harvest, work beautifully in these rich shortbread cookies. Serve them with strong black tea for an afternoon treat. The dough freezes well, so keep a log in the freezer and you'll be prepared to provide holiday visitors with freshly baked goodies at a moment's notice.

Make 30 to 40 cookies
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
Mix together butter, sugar and maple syrup with a wooden spoon or in an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Add flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Stir in the salt, cranberries and pecans.
Shape dough into two logs and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1/2-inch slices and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cookies will keep several days in an airtight container.
Nutrition Info
Per serving (About 1 Cookie/32g-wt.): 160 calories (90 from fat), 10g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 2g protein, 15g total carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 6g sugar), 20mg cholesterol, 20mg sodium

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Top 10 bushisms 2007

I know the year isn't over yet but here they are compliments of The Liberal Values Blog

10. “And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.” –interview on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

9. “I fully understand those who say you can’t win this thing militarily. That’s exactly what the United States military says, that you can’t win this military.” –on the need for political progress in Iraq, Washington, D.C., Oct. 17, 2007

8. “One of my concerns is that the health care not be as good as it can possibly be.” –on military benefits, Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

7. “Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit.” –addressing Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the APEC Summit. Later, in the same speech: “As John Howard accurately noted when he went to thank the Austrian troops there last year…” –referring to Australian troops as “Austrian troops,” Sept. 7, 2007

6. “My relationship with this good man is where I’ve been focused, and that’s where my concentration is. And I don’t regret any other aspect of it. And so I — we filled a lot of space together.” –on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington, D.C., May 17, 2007

5. “You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 — 1976.” –to Queen Elizabeth, Washington, D.C., May 7, 2007 (Watch video clip)

4. “The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear — I’m a Commander Guy.” –deciding he is no longer just “The Decider,” Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007 (Watch video clip)

3. “Information is moving — you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it’s also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets.” –Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007

2. “There are some similarities, of course (between Iraq and Vietnam). Death is terrible.” –Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

1. “As yesterday’s positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.” –on the No Child Left Behind Act, Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2007 (Watch video clip) Written by Ron Chusid

Bad ideas

This is from the web site
and was brought to my attention by my friend Kee. It features pictures of Nativities that are probably not good ideas. One of the comments on the original post "I don't know about you, but I never want to have to decide if I should eat the baby Jesus feet-first or head-first."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Polar bear tracking

The World Wildlife Fund in Canada is tracking 6 female polar bears and their cubs via satellite with tracking devices attached to the bears necks. This is being done to study their behavior and to see if they are being affected by global warming. Here is a link to the map and a profile of each bear if you would like to follow their progress:

Friday, December 7, 2007


This is a picture of a woman drinking water, out of what appears to be a very dirty river, through a LifeStraw. The LifeStraw filters out common bacteria in water such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus, Staphylococcus, and e-coli and can prevent diptheria, cholera, typhoid, and diarrhea. It is small, cheap (about $2.00), doesn't have a lot of moving parts, doesn't require electricity, and will last for about a year. It can be used by adults and by children who can suck. It doesn't completely eliminate bacteria but reduces the levels of bacteria making the water safe to drink.
Here are some interesting and sad facts that I didn't know: More than 1 billion people don't have access to clean water. That's about 1/6 of the world's population. About 1/2 of the world's poor suffer from waterborne diseases. About 6,000 die everyday from consuming bad water. Most are children.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Religion and politics don't mix

In his speech this morning in College Station, Mitt Romney said "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone." In his attempt to pander to the religious right evangelical conservatives he has just excluded atheists and doubters from his vision of "freedom" and has wiped out the notion of separation of church and state.
He also went on to assure members of the audience that he is a Christian and while he didn't use the term "born-again" his words implied that he is indeed one them. Many in the religious right consider his Mormon faith a cult so I'm sure this was meant to assure them of his good standing with God. I am so sick of candidates jumping on the born-again wagon and pandering to this minority. Do we really want someone in the White House who claims to be a Christian but acts in the most un-Christian ways towards other human beings possible. Look at what our current born-again Christian commander in chief has done to Iraq and the people in that country, not to mention our soldiers. And the earth. I'll take a non-believer any day over what we have now. Better yet, leave religion out of politics completely.
For the complete text of his speech see

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Unusual book covers or Green is the new everything!

Here's a great gift idea for the sports loving person on your holiday gift list. An astroturf clad book!
From the publisher's website: Featuring the largest and most diverse range of sports of any comparable book—more than 200 in all—from basketball to bobsledding, karate to korfball, synchronized swimming to ski-jumping, this up-to-date and authoritative guide presents information sourced from leading experts and sports governing bodies around the world to give you the most comprehensive book on sports to ever hit the market.
Explains rules, tactics, and techniques in a way that is clear, engaging, and effective
Includes a section on the Olympic Games, explaining all 35 Olympic sports
Clear diagrams define fields of play and identify specific zones and player positions
Outlines each sport's geographical range, history, major competitions, and successful competitors
Examines equipment and clothing, teams and players, and common terms of each sport

The book is published by DK Publishers and retails for $35.00.
HCPL has 26 copies (still in processing) for anyone interested in checking out a copy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Brad Pitt makes it right in New Orleans

Brad Pitt has pledged 5 million dollars to help rebuild New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward. He has commissioned architects to come up with designs that incorporate environmentally friendly building materials and techniques including solar energy. His organization is

Here is one of the proposed designs. You can see more on the web site listed above.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ginger, Gracie, and Santa

Gracie has asked for a new harness. Her old harness is faded and she fears a visit from Tim Gunn. Ginger would like a home in Big Sur, Sedona, or Tofino, British Columbia.

Rosie and Santa

Rosie would like a winning lottery ticket so her mom can stay home and provide a lap for her 24 hours a day.

A visit with Santa

Sparky would like anything with calories for Christmas.

Vegetarian Recipe

Red Wine, Red Bean and Portobello Ragout
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced red onion
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
7 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp hot paprika
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (14 ounce) can tomatoes with their juice, coarsely chopped
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese for garnish
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

1. In large saute pan over medium heat, warm the oil until hot, but not smoking. Add the onion, garlic, sage and 1 tsp of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes
2. Raise the heat and add the mushrooms and paprika. Saute until the mushrooms soften, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the wine to the pan with the ragout, scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, and bring to a boil. Continue boiling until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes with their juice, beans with their liquid and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered, until the liquid has reduced to a rich sauce about 10 minutes.
5. Serve over pasta, rice, or couscous, sprinkled with Gruyere and parsley.
Serves 4
This recipe is from Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Angels for Animals doghouse program

This year, as in years past, PETA has a campaign to raise money for doghouses for dogs who do not have any other shelter. For $265.00 a neglected backyard dog, often chained, will receive a sturdy straw filled doghouse. It's hard for me to imagine people treating "man's best friend" this way but many dogs are left outside in all kinds of freezing weather. This is a way we can help. I'm planning to sponsor one doghouse rather than give gifts this year. If you can't do this consider a smaller donation to PETA or to a local animal shelter.