Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Wishes & Some of My Favorite Stuff

I thought that now would be a good time to spread a lil good cheer, and some gentle nagging to do the right thing.

Santa Claus was especially nice to me. My girlfriend got me exactly what I wanted - she adopted a rescued animal at Farm Sanctuary. Of course I want a big friggin TV, a PS3, yadda yadda yadda, but if it came down to saving an animal or playing more video games, the lil buddies come first. ALWAYS. We're the proud "parents" of Harper, a duck rescued from the foie gras industry. He's a scrappy lil bugger, and we can't wait to go up to the Sanctuary to play with him.

We did our holiday shopping in a couple of the pavillions in NYC. One pavilion at Bryant Park had a little nook of a shop called Recycled Planet Store. While it's cool to see an increasing number of companies understand that recycling is a good thing (and from their perspective a growing demographic), Recycled Planet Store stands out because the husband and wife owners were dental surgeons who gave up their practices to not only recycle stuff like newspapers & magazines, inner tubes, & plastic bottle caps, but they work with impovershed communities in Brazil. There, artistans whip out gorgeous bowls, placemats, boxes, ornaments, and other nifty stuff. I have rarely been touched by individuals who have had such a strong devotion to giving back to those who need it while creating really cool stuff AND recycling. Take a look.

The holiday shopping pavillion at Grand Central Station has a lot of nifty shops, and one thing I noticed was that some of the merchants couldn't afford (YET) to establish a physical storefront. This doesn't detract from a really cool t-shirt or in the case of Engage Green loads of cool bags & some nifty home accents all made from recycled materials. I swear one of their bags felt like suede, but it was a combination of cork and organic hemp. Very playful design, good karma, and tips to help the environment.

While I'm on the topic of recycled materials, I've noticed that a couple of top tier outdoor gear manufacturers Mountainsmith and Osprey Packs are making a variety of backpags & bags from recycled materials like PET-based fabric. Mountainsmith is expanding its recycled line in 2008 to include camera bags & a wider range of day packs & backpacks. Osprey Packs has a bag recycling program where people can send in their used bags, and Osprey will distribute them worldwide to charities that need them.

One last thing about recycling (I promise) - Just about everytime I go out in NYC, I see the detritus of modern life. There's a trash can at every corner, and every so often, there will be recycling bins as well. In spite of these conveniences of urban life, assholes are going to dump their crap all over the city, because they're ignorant bastards, they're lazy, or they just don't care. I could either slap the shit out of the scumbag who's going to leave their garbage on the street, or I could pick up a little bit myself every now and then. I still get angry, and I'm waiting for some fucker to toss their lit cigarette or cigar butt out their car so I can pick it up and fling it back at them - or better yet - IN their vehicle. Everytime I leave the apartment, I try to remember to have a plastic grocery bag in my pocket to pick up water bottles, cans, etc. Eventually they'd end up in a landfill, but why not pick the stuff up and ensure that they get recycled, or at the very least thrown out properly? This is MY city, MY state, MY country, and MY planet. I am partially responsible for making sure that it doesn't stink to high heaven, and I'm going to practice both environmentalism and civic pride and duty. It doesn't take much time to do, and the end result is an overwhelming sense of good karma.

Now on to some lil notes about some of my favorite stuff.

MMAMania.com This site used to be UFCMania.com, but the focus is still on the UFC - the largest Mixed Martial Arts organization. If you have any love of a good asswhooping, take a look. On top of stout and earnest reporting, I'm especially impressed with the intelligence of most of the commenters of this blog.

Free Rice Where the HELL was this website when I was studying for the SAT? For every English vocabulary quiz answer you get right, Free Rice donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. Since the website went live in October 2007 Free Rice has donated over 11 BILLION grains of rice. The sponsors list is wide and very touching. Beef up your vocabulary, and end hunger. WOW.

DrunkCyclist You don't have to be a cyclist or a fitness enthusiast to love this blog, but it helps. Bug Jonny, the dude who runs this site, is passionate about purity in cycling and sports in general as well as finding some really bent and funny news stories. He also is Holy War dedicated to expose hypocrisy and political injustice.

2 Dinar I am a passionate American patriot, but I am nobody's stooge. There's no way in Hell I'd ever trust the current administration to tell me the truth, and I genuinely believe that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are criminally retarded, evil, and without souls. 2 Dinar is a great op-ed site that gives a clarity and a unique perspective on current events and foreign policy: from the perspective of armed forces veterans. If your bullshit meter is going off everytime you read or see a news story that involves the current tenants at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, then visit 2 Dinar.

Joe Rogan If all you know this mook from is shows like "NewsRadio" or "Fear Factor," or as the longtime color commentator for the UFC, you have to hear his comedy act. Yep, Joe is a comedian, and a damned funny one at that. He's had is run-ins with other comedians like Carlos Mencia, but his album Shiny Happy Jihad is one of the funniest things I've heard in ages. Joe is one of the few comedians I would go out of my way to see.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Whitey Christmas

This is my buddy, Whitey. My girlfriend and I first met him in the summer at Central Park. He kinda sticks out at the Pond amidst a bunch of Mallard ducks. Some people know him as Wiggles, Quackers, or Willie, but to us, he's Whitey. Whitey is an Indian Runner Duck, and while related to Mallards, Runner Ducks are domesticated. Theoretically all the animals in Central Park are wild, but you might ask how did a Runner Duck make it to Central Park? The sad reality is that someone probably got him as a cute little chick, and he became too much to handle, and some asshole abandoned him in Central Park thinking he'd be ok with the other ducks.

Yeah, I know. It sucks, but Whitey is ok. He's got lots of buddies, and apparently he's got a couple of grown up children, so he's not doing so badly. My girlfriend and I started feeding the ducks crumbled up granola bars, and we moved to birdseed. After doing some research, we quickly learned that feeding any bird crackers, torn up bagels, pretzels, and bread is generally a bad idea, because birds cannot digest processed flour products. It leads to engorged fatty organs, heart conditions, and other debilitating ailments. Whole grains and wild bird seed mixes (non-medicated) are higher in protein and generally suitable to feed ducks. Still, be careful. Some park conservancy workers may not understand or appreciate why you'd want to feed the ducks, or worse -they may be able to fine you.

Virtually every argument for NOT feeding wild birds does not apply to Whitey. Runner Ducks cannot migrate because they generally can't fly for great distances. He is not a wild bird. He is a domesticated duck that was abandoned. He is sharp as a tack, although my girlfriend and I sometimes think he's dumber than a sack of hammers. We love him dearly. It didn't take long for him to recognize us, and he knows we'll always have treats for him. He'll waddle up to the fence or tentatively come to us directly and eat from our hands. I remember when I first started doing the research about what to feed Whitey, a nice person at The Audubon Society said that the important thing is to regularly feed the animals. You can't just feed them once or twice and then go on to something else. That would be just as bad as the bastard who abandoned Whitey when he was a little chick.

My girlfriend and I get up extra early 4 times a week to walk over to Central Park with our breakfast and a couple ziploc bags full of bird seed. We'll pick up big bags of wild bird seed regularly, and I found a hardware store in Ithaca, NY that regularly makes trips to Manhattan to take care of things like the Mounted Police, Circuses, etc. We're gonna get waterfowl pellets, food specifically made for ducks, geese, swans, etc. It's a slight pain in the ass, but Whitey may be hungry, lonely, or maybe he's just bored with the same old diet. Why wouldn't he and the other ducks like good nutritious treats? Why shouldn't they be spoiled rotten? We're never gonna give up on Whitey and his buddies. Recently they all started to come up to us and eat from our hands. I'd like to think it's because they understood that we're not gonna hurt them, and that we love them, but I know it's because they're hungry as Hell.

Still, we love them, and especially now during the Holidays when we are flooded with messages of warmth, friends, family, and good karma, how could we not want to make sure that at the very least they have more to eat?