Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Anti-Resolution

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, since they seem to be another way to remind me of how much I suck when I’ve broken all of them by Valentines Day. And besides, for the past 10 years they’ve looked pretty much the same; lose weight, exercise more, finish something, be nicer to Andy & Dylan, blah blah blah. So, this year, instead of looking forward, I want to look back at a few things I’ve actually done in 2008.

#1 Produce less trash: Back in May we wanted to see if we could throw away one 32 gal trash container a month. Not only as a way to cut back on the expense of trash services, but because it seemed entirely possible and I just hate the idea of how much crap we toss out while living in the Western world. So, how did we do? With one exception, we managed to limit our debris to one can a month. Here’s what we threw out after our Christmas morning package opening frenzy.

Large bag is recycling, clear bag is trash.

#2 Write more: While I didn’t send much out to publishers and agents this year, I did add 48 posts to the blog since March, after I decided that even though we weren’t traveling a lot, there was still something to write about. Counting essays, blog postings and other writings, I increased my output by about 150 pages. Those hours spent writing are—according to Malcom Gladwell, author of Outliers—getting me further down the road towards having those 10,000 hours that are necessary to become a master craftsperson.

#3 Volunteer: Actually I’ve done a lot of this—forever it seems. But even though I swear to take that time for myself, I discover that by volunteering, I really am doing something for myself while helping out a cause I support. Obama & Arbor are where I spent most of my time in 2008. In 2009 I have some plans to do a more long-term gig helping recent immigrants adjust to Portland.
While I've yet to nab that nomination for a McArthur Genius Fellowship, perhaps promising to floss my teeth more will provide the motivation I need to make 2009 a banner year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

If Lewis & Clark Blogged

Sorry it's been a week since our last post, but since last Sunday there has been snow, ice and freezing temperatures which makes the locals confused and agitated. They should see what winter is like for us in New England!
We have been busy building a shelter with a nice, native Oregonian girl;

looking for rabbits & birds to hunt

and wondering if the parcels we've sent back East will make it to our families by Christmas. We keep trying to get a hold of old TJ (Mr. President to you) but it looks like he NEVER checks his Facebook Page. Have him twitter us, eh? (cute thing the folks up North always say--eh, not twitter.)
Signing off!

Bill & Merri

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is it a Wonderful Life?

‘Tis the season for holiday movies, both sappy and sublime. And it’s also the season for sharing, whether it be colds, or cookies, so I’m sharing with you some of my favorite movies that are set at this time of the year.

The Sappy:

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Okay, Wally World mugs of eggnog and membership to the jelly of the month club may not be your idea of what makes being with family over the holidays special, but hey—the first time I saw this was during my first week of law school finals, and the stress load was pretty intense—so Christmas at the Griswold’s will always feel like a place of refuge for me.

Die Hard: Didn’t you know? Die Hard is a classic holiday story. Bruce Willis saves his wife from an evil, pre-Snape, Alan Rickman, which becomes the highlight of the company party. If only Andy’s holiday parties were so memorable…

Love, Actually: It rivals Harry Potter for the number of huge British stars, and rates high on the sap meter, but when Emma Thompson figures out her husband—again a churlish Alan Rickman—is cheating, while Joni Mitchell sings in the background, well—it’s so sad.

The Sublime:

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Pure 100% nostalgia. Watching it put me back in 1974. Lying on the couch in footie pj’s, giddy with anticipation for Santa’s visit. Linus’s speech, the timeless music of Vince Garauldi, and Charlie Brown’s tiny tree all make this a perfect Christmas movie.

A Christmas Story: Poor Ralphie, all he wants is a Red Ryder BB gun, which his mother (and Santa) are sure will put an eye out. The pink bunny suit, the leg lamp and Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant—weren’t these moments from my own childhood Christmases? Funny trivia bit: Peter Billingley, who played Ralphie, has been in Elf and Four Christmases.

The Godfather: Okay, it’s not really a Christmas movie, but it’s such an awesome movie, and there is a scene where Michael Corleone is buying Christmas gifts, only to find out that his Dad has just been shot in what is the beginning of a gangster war. And there’s nothing like a shot-up Don to bring the family together during the holidays.

Hard to Classify:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Hard times due to a banking debacle, and too many real-life Mr. Potters trodding on the small guy makes watching It’s a Wonderful Life especially poignant this year. Sure, there are some sappy moments, and who named their kids ZuZu in 1940? But what I found to be truly heartbreaking is George Bailey’s desire to see the world, go to college and chase his fortunes outside of Bedford Falls, only to be thwarted by circumstance and obligation to family whenever an opportunity to leave appears.

Like George, I too wanted nothing more in my life than to leave my own Bedford Falls, see the world and get an education. It didn’t matter that college was only three hours away, it might as well had been a whole universe apart.

Unlike George, I was able to leave. I went to the University of Montana and then proceeded to travel to over 40 US states and 30 different countries. While I’ve kept a few of my friends from Bedford Falls (they too left, some chose to return), I’ve made friends in all the places I’ve settled.

I don’t know; I have always wondered if George had left Bedford Falls, would he have gotten interested in medicine and found a cure for a type of cancer? Or would he have pursued his interest in building and made architectural masterpieces that the whole world would enjoy? I know that is not the story, but I was never one to assume that his life in BF was the best version out there.

But the message is that a rich man is the one who has a lot of friends, and I heartily agree, friends make life richer, during good times and bad. Happy Holidays to all of our friends in Bedford Falls and beyond.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I Like Reich

Right now I'm really digging Robert Reich. Why?
1-He's super smart
2-We're the same height
3-His autograph hangs above my desk. (Actually it's on Andy's Dartmouth diploma, which has his signature as one of the trustees) and
4-His blog entries make my economic musings seem downright chipper.

I'm too lazy to get anti-depressants, so when I need to get happy after reading doom and gloom, I turn here for a good laugh. A poetic place to check out for this revolution's Marie Antionette cake-eating moment??

Friday, December 05, 2008

We Get By.

November’s unemployment numbers came out and they were so bad that Ethiopians are considering sending care packages to Americans.

Not really, but things are feeling pretty topsy turvy. One of the key indicators of the health of an economy is the unemployment rate. If you have a greater percentage of your population employed, that means higher productivity, more tax revenue (presumably for more services) and less cause for concern. But counting unemployment numbers is like taking the temperature of a sick patient. Yes, it will tell you something, but you might also want to pay attention to the blood gushing out of the orifices.

Even with fairly accurate numbers, I don’t think that unemployment numbers are a true gauge of economic well-being, since those numbers are calculated by counting those who file claims for unemployment insurance and a random sampling of households. Sure, someone like Andy—who works as an employee in a brick and mortar business—would be counted as unemployed if he lost his job, joining 500,000 of his fellow Americans in the past month, since his job qualifies him for unemployment insurance. But who isn’t counted?

America has a very diverse work force, and I’m not talking the usual diversities. In a land of Horatio Alger stories, where folks take Horace Greeley’s advice to “go west young man,” and where people can make a million dollars inventing tiny plastic plugs to go into lumpy plastic shoes, many of us are considered either employed or not in the labor force, even if we are making no money or would like very much to be in the labor force. People like real estate agents, contract writers, temp agency employees, in-home day care providers, and the multitude of people who are writing books, starting their own business and working anywhere and everywhere are all counted as healthy parts of the workforce, when they may actually be suffering.

Unemployment may look very different in our country than in others. Scenes like men milling in the streets (Egypt), children begging outside restaurants (Cambodia), and many generations of families living under one roof (Vietnam) may not be so common in the United States. But there are indicators that things here are not well. Unemployment "benefits" will probably run out in California as early as next month. Food banks are reporting a serious increase in first-time users, and even the CEO's of the big three auto companies are taking fuel-efficient cars to DC rather than their private jets.

I'm worried that our country has not reached the full depth and breadth that this economic crisis will throw at us. I wish I could figure out how best to bring a more environmentally sustainable, yet viable, economy to the forefront, but then If I did, my time would be better spent honing my resume and sending it to Obama for consideration for his economic team rather than blogging (thank you Arianna Huffington for legitimizing my electronic missives). In the meantime I plan on paying very close attention to Obama's plan to see if he can create that elusive balance.