Category: culture & society

Snow on You Crazy Diamond

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Just messing around on this beautiful, snowy day here in Sweden. The weather, music, and mood all came together. Plus a new tripod (thanks, Hugo).

Click that first picture or here to see the snow falling outside our window. I’m glad I decided to stop to smell the flowers (thanks, Cici), and to watch, listen, and feel the snow and wind, and to hear, for the first time, a new rendition of an all-time favorite song. That’s what sealed the deal, the Floyd cover (thanks, Christy).

More pics after the jump.  The first one (below) is from Monday (2/22), the second one is from Thursday (2/25) and the third one is from Tuesday (2/23). The tulip pics and video (above) are from Saturday (2/20). The video cover shot is from Sunday (2/21).

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Stockholm and Riga Trip and Pics

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(click for larger version of this image)

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(click for larger version of this image)

Back our 3-year anniversary trip to Riga, Latvia, via Stockholm, Sweden. Great trip, great weather, great food, people!

It was a nice surprise to be in Riga for the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Chain, a protest where 2 million people held hands over 600 kilometers (373 miles) spanning three countries (Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR). Imagine that! I had know idea.

By the way, while we’re on the topic of protests and before I forget, here’s Larry Flint’s (yes, that Larry Flint) call for mass protest on HuffPo: “Common Sense 2009.”  What will cause the sheeple to reject the lies, reject their selfishness (and the selfishness of the politicians and mega corporations), and standup for each other (“we, not me”)?  Apparently a lot, since it’s not happened yet.  Sigh.  Now back to regularly scheduled blog post.

More about the Baltic Chain and its 20th anniversary:

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Jeff Bezos’ & Amazon’s Big “Tell”

(Why do I single out Bezos here?  Because responsibility goes to the top and Bezos is the Founder, Chairman, CEO, and President of Amazon.)

2009-7-23 UPDATE: See bottom of this post.

I wasn’t going to comment on the recnt (and ironic) Jeff Bezos debacle, but yesterday a commenter on Cringly’s blog said: “Amazon has destroyed their business in one careless stroke. Once you lose the public trust, you never get it back.”

Although I think “destroyed” and “never” are too strong words, I share the sentiment, especially the part about violating trust (for example, violate my trust once and you’re out, with little chance of reinstatement).

Why is “destroyed” too strong a word?

Because, probably enough of Amazon’s customers don’t know or care about Bezos’ Orwellian, jack-booted thug maneuver or are not thoughtful enough to understand why it’s such a big deal.

Most of the people who do care might somehow punish Amazon a little, such as by going on a temporary buyer’s strike or writing a negative blog post (like this one), but they will probably come back to big bro Bezos and his website that knows more about you than you may know yourself.  The more you use Amazon, the more it learns about you, of course.  It’s the same, with Google, NetFlix, your credit/debit card purchases, mobile phone and location data, RFID chipped cards and passports, but all that’s another story. Reminds me, though, see this interesting Wired UK article: “The new hidden persuaders.”

So, why is this debacle so interesting?

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New Plan Ties College Loan Payments to Income

This is an important article for anyone who has student loan debt. The more your debt, and lower your imcome, the more important the article.

The new repayment option — the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan — went into effect on July 1, 2009. It limits what borrowers have to pay to “15% of the difference between their gross income and 150% of federal poverty guidelines.”

What exactly that means, is up to your lender to determine, as I understand it. But it does appear that payments can be as low as $0.00. That’s bad, because interest accrues and is added to the outstanding balance, but it’s good because after borrowers “make payments on loans” for 25 years, the balance is forgiven.  (But what does “make payments on loans” mean?  What if those “payments” are $0.00?)

Bottom line is that everyone who feels burdened by their student loans should read this article, and its links, and figure out if this new plan is something for them. If it is, take action.

Problem is, how to figure all this stuff out? It may be so important, and complicated, that some people might want/need professional advice. That’s actually something I’ve long been interested in, but it’s been low on the priority list compared with my other projects. I would love to hear from any of you with the relevant knowledge, experience, and drive to setup a web- and phone-based business providing student loan consulting (in partnership with me). I’ve already got a good domain name: StudentLoanConsulting.com. I guess I could always sell or license that name as well. If you’re interested in any of this, just contact me.

Now on to the article:

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Unity of Greater New Orleans

Unity of Greater New Orleans is a group of amazing people working to end homelessness (in New Orleans).

We all want to help reduce homelessness everywhere, so this is just one charity of interest in that department, but it’s a good one.  We have to help each other, one person at a time.

Read the following article and let me know what you think: New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Squatters hidden in N.O.’s abandoned houses often need more help than other homeless people”: http://bit.ly/TT3V1 (Google Doc) or http://bit.ly/gh72s (PDF).

So did you read that article? That’s why I just made a donation to them through the Network For Good. Here’s the link to Unity of Greater New Orleans’s donation page in case you’re inspired, too. Either way, maybe re-share this post? Thanks.

PS: Pics and video from my latest trip to New Orleans, in April 2009.

Barack Obama:
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

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Miss. and La. Road Trip Pics: 1st Set: Leave DC, Drive, Arrive, First Day/Night in NOLA

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(click for full-size version)

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UPDATE #1: Here’s a master page of New Orleans pics and videos: www.buzzpal.com/no.

UPDATE #2: Here’s the rest of the pics, all on one page.

Here’s the first batch of pics from my 9-day road trip down to Pearl River, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Why/how’d I go on this trip?

To help my friend Alan move all his stuff down to his and his wife Amy’s organic blueberry farm, Pearl River Blues. Plus I absolutely love great road trips, and what could be better, especially if you love music, than a road trip to Mississippi and New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, funk, and blues?

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