Bring Your Own Bags, Save Money

Plastic grocery bags. Some people throw them away. Some people ball them up and keep them forever. Some people crochet them into wreaths, rugs, purses and other beautiful things. I definitely fall into the "keep them forever" camp, or at least I did until I learned that some grocery stores around the nation are getting smart about re-using these pervasive pabulum pouches, and offering you a discount on your purchase if you bring your own bags instead of using new ones. If done right, the result can be a leveling-off of the rate at which you acquire new bags, cost savings, and no extra hassle - a blessing for pack-rats everywhere.
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Weblog Converted to WordPress

I've moved this weblog to use WordPress, instead of Movable Type. While I found Movable Type generally agreeable, WordPress has become a favorite as I've used it with the Summersault Weblog, especially in its handling of comment and trackback spam which, other than writing posts themselves, had become the most time-consuming part of having a weblog - not good. So, I'm still ironing out a few glitches from the transition, but otherwise it should be business as usual with a more consistent look thrown in; let me know if you notice any problems.

Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward

I generally avoid national bestselling political books that are just consolidated accounts of the political soap operas that go on in our nation's capital, designed to make more buzz and more money for the journalists or whistle-blowers or former aides that happened to keep really good notes during the experience. But once in a while there are some pretty compelling publications that appear in that genre, and I can't help but dive in. Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack certainly emerges as an example of a page-turner for anyone interested in national politics, the executive branch's decision making process, and especially how the U.S. ended up invading Iraq.
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Happy News Dot Com

I was glad to find the site HappyNews.com, which publishes "up-to-the-minute news, geared to lift spirits and inspire lives." While I'm always a fan of balancing the good and the bad (or, in this case, the happy and the unhappy) and everything in between, there are plenty of sources out there for news stories framed in the context of all the things wrong with the world. This site appears to be making a good go at an alternate approach that focuses on the positive, and they even encourage paid citizen journalism.

Homegrown RSS feeds for local news sites

I recently wrote in the Summersault weblog about how website content syndication is changing the way we use the web. Of course, if the sites you care about aren't syndicating their content, the phenomenon is a little less exciting. For me, the only ones I cared about that were in this category were local news sources. For a few years I'd been running hacked up Perl scripts that tried to retrieve headlines from the sites of local papers, but it tended to be hit and miss and I never really took the time to take a more structured approach until now. Using the Template::Extract Perl module and a handy article from Simon Cozens about spidering hacks, I was able to formalize and simplify the creation of custom RSS feeds scraped from sites without them built-in. So, here are the first few, to which you are welcome to point your own newsreader:

Please avoid refreshing these more than once an hour. If there are other feeds you'd like to see, let me know. I'll add new ones on my feeds page as they come. Enjoy!

Experts agree, neurotoxins are good for you

I've had a bad case of unusually persistent headaches lately, and when I experience health problems I usually try to identify simple potential causes and solutions before I go get all up inside the conventional healthcare system. Some call this holistic health, I just call it common sense and listening to the marvelous self-diagnosing machine that is the human body. Am I particularly stressed out or upset about something? Have I been getting enough exercise? Is my cuisine all screwed up? And so on. I was talking to someone today who practices craniosacral therapy and she did a good job of reminding me how many ridiculously toxic, but FDA approved, headache-causing substances there are out there in the food we buy.

I caught her mention of aspartame as a common one and started doing a little research. While I tend to avoid looking up medical information on the Internet after previously embarrassing experiences doing so, I found lots of connections mentioned between headaches and aspartame. Who would have thought that ingesting formaldehyde would have negative health effects? Huh! Thanks, Monsanto! I took a brief skim of my pantry and found three products at the front of the shelf with aspartame and related substances like sucralose / Splenda, listed as an ingredient, both of which I've consumed lately - they're now in the trash. Yeah, I know - we can't just start throwing away everything that's bad for us to any degree. But I figure that if a given edible substance has to have dueling propaganda websites and panels of experts to talk about whether or not it REALLY causes brain tumors, I can probably live without it to be on the safe side.

Perhaps I can ONLY live without it.