The Singing Earth

A little late for Earth Day, I’m linking to this wonderful video that has entertained and motivated me many times since I first saw it when I was five years old.

I can’t say that it was this singing Earth who first inspired me to care about the environment.  My parents set a pretty good example and taught me many sensible ideas about avoiding waste and pollution, so I can’t remember a time when I was totally oblivious to concerns about taking care of our planet.

But over the many years between my ceasing to watch Saturday morning cartoons (note to young folks: Schoolhouse Rock segments like this one used to be shown in between cartoon programs) and Schoolhouse Rock becoming available on video and then on YouTube, the singing Earth popped into my mind frequently.  I would read about deforestation and hear him plaintively singing, “The fires got higher and higher; the clearings got wider and wider.”  That hole in the ozone layer was, in my mind, the bald spot in poor Mr. Earth’s cloudy hair.  Sometimes when I was tempted to chuck my aluminum can in the garbage or sheath something in plastic wrap, I would picture his gentle face and reconsider.  Mother Nature?  Sure, that’s a pleasant concept too, but when I personify our planet I tend to picture this earnest, kind of worn-out, but hopeful guy.

Come on, people!  It’s been 34 years!  Please listen to his message!  It’s so simple:

If everyone tries a bit harder,
Our fuel will go farther and farther.

Turn that extra light out!  How can you say no to the singing Earth?  That final ten seconds may be the cutest thing I have ever seen on television.

By the way, if you have any leftover prescription drugs you’re not going to use, instead of polluting Earth’s water supply with them, take them to National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, April 28!  Enter your zip code to find the collection location nearest you.

Visit Your Green Resource for more environmental inspirations!

Breastfeeding While Working Outside the Home

My only child weaned 5 years ago this month, and I’ve been meaning to write this article ever since!  I finally got inspired by a recent magazine article arguing that the whole concept of breastfeeding being any kind of good idea is A PLOT TO KEEP WOMEN DOWN!!! and supporting this argument by quoting outdated materials from La Leche League and a few carefully selected over-zealous Websites.  It was so silly, but it was promoting an idea that I’ve heard in lots of less-silly contexts: that feeding a baby nothing but breastmilk until he’s ready for solid foods is horribly difficult unless the mother is willing to be trapped in her home with the baby 24 hours a day.  That just isn’t true!  In my experience, it is entirely possible to pump milk at work and put it into bottles for someone else to feed your baby, even if you work in a non-private cubicle and get only 12 weeks of maternity leave.  To me it seemed hardly more difficult than preparing bottles of formula would have been.  So I am writing this article to share the details of what worked for me.

But first, the disclaimers, Read more…

Win a FREE e-book with over 800 helpful tips!

UPDATE: Both give-away copies have been won, but you can still buy the e-book by clicking this button: Buy That Works For Me!

This isn’t really a blog, and I’ve never run a give-away before, but I can’t resist the opportunity to give away two free copies of the new e-book That Works For Me!  This book compiles the best tips from the many thousands submitted to Works-for-Me Wednesday over the past five years.  Instead of sifting through 260 pages of weekly link-ups looking for the best articles to click, you can use this neat, indexed guide to access over 800 of the best ones.

All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this article, telling me one idea you have found here in The Earthling’s Handbook that works for you, something you learned here that has made a difference in your life.  Make sure to enter your e-mail address in the comment interface–your address will not be posted with your comment, but it will be available to me behind the scenes so that I can tell the publishers of That Works For Me! to send you a copy.

I’m not going to do anything fancy, like a random drawing, because I normally don’t get a lot of comments here.  The first two commenters who meet the above criteria will win!

FREE computer game: Hall of Heads

My partner Daniel joined a group of computer game programmers who wrote 38 interactive fiction (text adventure) games in tribute to the 20th anniversary of Apollo 18, the They Might Be Giants album with 38 tracks.  Each game has the same title as one song on the album.  Daniel wrote “Hall of Heads”.  That is, he made up the puzzles and did all the programming of the game.  The reason I have co-author credit is that I helped a lot with the main concept and the opening scene of the game.  What does the Hall of Heads look like?  Why does it exist?  Why are you there?  I helped to answer these questions, and it was my idea that you, the player, should be able to swap your own head with those you find in the Hall.  For some reason I just sort of knew how this should work, what it would feel like to switch heads.  I also felt strongly that the lyrics of the song should give hints for winning the game.  After a couple of late-night sessions of spouting ideas, I left Daniel to do the actual programming.

I still haven’t played very far into the game myself.  It’s tricky!  I’m not an experienced computer-game player, and I need more hints.  But I got far enough to say that it’s got just the mood I had in mind–creepy, but not too horrifying.

Here is the index of Apollo 18 tribute games.  In the left sidebar are handy tips for playing interactive fiction.  If you already know how, click here to jump right into the Hall of Heads.

Helping to write the occasional creepy computer game works for me!

Daniel has written two previous computer games that are available for free: Ka is interactive fiction (also on the creepy side) and The Sand Boxes has graphics.

The e-book That Works For Me!

If you’ve ever clicked on one of the links that say, “It works for me!” in many of my posts, you’ve found the wonderful blog carnival Works-for-Me Wednesday, where every week about 200 writers each link an article about something that works for them.  (Here are the instructions for participating in Works-for-Me Wednesday.)  This delightfully flexible premise brings together a wide array of tips and tricks, from simple to elaborately detailed, from silly to practical to profound.  Most contributors are mothers and Christians, so many of the tips are about parenting or housekeeping or spirituality, but a wide array of people participate.  You never know what you may learn from Works-for-Me Wednesday!  I love browsing the articles during my lunch breaks at work.

However, sifting through 200+ links every week takes a lot of time–I often don’t finish wandering through them before the next Wednesday comes–and sometimes people link things that just aren’t that great.  After five years and thousands of tips, the best of Works-for-Me Wednesday has been compiled into an e-book!  It indexes over 800 articles from hundreds of bloggers (including myself!), with a summary of each article and a link to the article on its original site.  This means that if there are any updates to the article, you’ll see them (you’re not buying a version that might become outdated), and you’ll see all the links within that article to other articles on the same blog or references on other sites.  You’ll also be reading each article in the context of its blog, so you can see what else the author has written and might find a new favorite blog to read.

That Works For Me! costs $8–less than one cent per helpful idea!  You’re bound to find many ideas in it that will be worth a lot more than one cent each, either in cash savings or in comfort and sanity.  As a contributing author, I will receive a portion of the proceeds when you purchase That Works For Me! by clicking on this handy button.

Buy That Works For Me!

Another portion of the proceeds from this e-book will benefit The Mercy House, a non-profit maternity home in Kenya.  Kristen Welch, who hosts Works-for-Me Wednesday, and her family founded The Mercy House after Kristen’s eye-opening trip to Kenya two years ago.  She came home broken-hearted about the poverty and suffering she had seen . . . and she did something to help!  I have been amazed by this unfolding story of the entire Welch family’s dedication to this project and the speed with which they’ve gotten it up and running.  I am pro-choice, and that means I firmly believe that women deserve safe choices in addition to abortion, even if they are young and poor.  The Mercy House gives women from desperate circumstances a safe place to live and receive health care, education, counseling, and skills training while they are pregnant and adjusting to motherhood.  It gives them an option other than abortion, in a country where abortion is very dangerous, contraception is hard to get, rape is common, and many women turn to prostitution to buy food.  I admire Kristen and her family for stepping into this difficult environment to help strangers, and I am glad to support The Mercy House.