Fall in CPH

I booked myself two extra days in Copenhagen this trip. Two whole days  – with friends and solo – in sunny, crisp, cool air… wandering streets, shopping, eating good food. It was a rare treat in one of my favorite cities.

There’s a misconception in the U.S. that because the Danish government levies taxes and administers public services it is socialist. That is not what socialist means, and if it were I’d be asking to sign right up.

Working in a multimillion dollar corporate headquarters then shopping on Strøget, I can tell you capitalism is alive & well in Copenhagen. Yes, it’s true that accumulating tremendous capital is challenging with Danish tax rates, but the quality of life is fantastic & if you have 3 or 4 kids the benefits outweigh the costs.

One thing I loved was all the gluten-free options, as tons of Scandinavians are celiacs & I’ve discovered I have a nasty reaction to wheat (not convenient but I feel so much better). I actually bought a big box of cereal & brought it back in my suitcase. I tried 3 groceries before I found these. They’re in the basement of Magasin du Nord.

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Something Good We Can Be Up To Together

Hello, my friends and family. This is an experiment in what we can be up to together. Today I made a $100 tax-deductible donation to the Media Coordinator of a small elementary school in rural North Carolina. She’s raising money to buy books for her rookie readers. She only needs $335 to meet her target.

It’s easy to support teachers all over the US — Donors Choose at donorschoose.org has set up a system where teachers post projects that need funding and people all over the world able to make tax-deductible donations of any size do so. It’s great the stuff that we can make possible! Maybe you can finish off that teacher’s goal and we’ll take on another? What do you say?

I am doing this — and donating globally on Kiva.org (maybe you’ve seen Kiva.org on tv… Bill Clinton talked about it in his books and discusses it a lot on tv)– because I believe we can do better than the current gross disparity between the rich and the poor. We can do this ourselves right now. Thank goodness new media technology is making this possible quickly, too!

I also believe we can generate good news with projects like this. Mainstream media will shift to reflect the changing paradigm — the conversations on the planet are not all doom and gloom despite what you see on the daily 4 o’clock news. Wonderful, generous, important things are happening every day. The media do not reflect our power and kindnss back to us… yet!

Please join me in the incredible new movement to redistribute wealth and create new possibilities for people everywhere. Let’s see how much we can raise just from this little blog-a-thon! To donate to school teachers who’ve posted their needs, click here. I selected four projects I really liked and that are in high-poverty areas of the US. You can go to donorschoose.org to see many, many more proposals posted by teachers all over the US.

The Latte Factor

Everyone said living in Switzerland would be expensive. It isn’t at all. First of all, the horror stories I heard about food and… well, everything… being more expensive here aren’t necessarily true. There aren’t as many cheap restaurants, that’s true. But it’s not that everything is through the roof, either. You can get a good, filling meal for $10 if you like pizza hand tossed by a fat little Sicilian man. I do.

The thing that may make living in Switzerland actually less expensive than living in the US, for me, anyway, is that on most days my latte factor is zero.

Do you know about the latte factor? There’s this guy, David Bach, who’s written a bunch of booksSmart Women Finish Rich, Smart Couples Finish Rich and The Automatic Millionaire among them. He recommends this, and I have to say I think I read it first in Your Money or Your Life, a book I think every human being should read. Anyway, do this: Record every penny you spend. Every single cent. You’ll probably notice that there are a lot of little things you spend money on — lattes at Starbucks being the prime example, Tic Tacs in the tube station, lunch out instead of packed, videos you never watch, afternoon snacks from vending machines… stuff that doesn’t add to your happiness or quality of life but when you add it up you’re spending a hefty sum on it annually. If you could have that 400 or 600 or 800 back, what would you do with it?

I’ll tell you what I do: buy airplane tickets and stay in decent to wonderful hotels.

In Switzerland on many days I spend exactly zero dollars on little stuff. Usually I go grocery shopping once a week and many weeks I don’t go anywhere else all week except to walk the dog. My next thing is bottled water. No more bottled water. It’s just ridiculous the resources it uses up.

Bach’s number one tip, by the way, and it is one I read in the New York Times this week, too, is never buy coffee outside your home. This doesn’t mean go cold turkey when you’re on business trips or anything as radical or stupid as that. It just means make your coffee, even your lunch, at home. Invest the hundreds of dollars you’ll save. Or at least spend them on something big because they add up. The first step, though, is to figure out your Latte Factor — how much you’re actually spending on these things. Then you can choose if they’re really worth it or not.

What’s your Latte Factor? Is it worth it?

Where next?

I started writing this blog on a Thursday in 2005 in my office in Moscow, Idaho… the site of the latest US shooting rampage.

Everything you’ve heard about Moscow on the news lately is true. It’s an idyllic little place — you really don’t need to lock your doors; people are nice, supportive, progressive, resourceful, connected.

I had the best boss there — I imagine him the best boss in the world… he genuinely wanted to support my growth and development (he suggested getting me a regional opinion column and as a former newspaperman and head of the state’s foremost journalism school he could have), he introduced me around and had parties when I arrived so I could make friends, he made sure other people welcomed and included me as he did, too.

I often tell people I would have stayed there if I’d been married with kids. It was a lovely little town with a great food co-op and independent bookstore, where kids could still run and ride their bikes all through town unsupervised.

And then this. I have to tell you, the news of these sprees makes even visiting the US seem like a bad idea. What kind of culture is so sick that you could be picked off going shopping for a new dress or sitting in class on any given day? The most shocking thing to me, though, is that there doesn’t seem to be any conversation about about what to do about it. I read the news coverage and it’s more of the same — so-and-so killed 4 or 11 or 27 people in a shopping mall, church, classroom, wherever. He purchased the guns here, drove to Site A at such-and-such time… blah, blah, blah.

Why isn’t there coverage asking, “How have we become this and what can we each do every single day to stop it?” Gun laws alone are not going to deal with the pervasiveness of this problem (though to not severely restrict gun purchase and ownership at at time like this just seems ignorant). Every parent, every teacher, every employer, every person will need to take this on. That’s my two cents. It’s the same as I said after I left Steve… domestic violence will continue unabated until every single one of us says, “Not in my house, not in my circle of friends, not in my workplace, not in my family, not in my country, not in my world.”

Momentary Random Rant

As soon as school is over and I have a little bit more time, I am starting a new blog. It will be about media — about things people should see but don’t have access to and things we really don’t need to see and are even undermining decency, common sense and democracy.

One of the first posts will be called, “If Americans knew…” It’s not an original title, there are sites with that name. But I’ve just seen a video released in 2004 that I think would unite Americans on the far right and the far left if they knew what was really happening. It should be shown everywhere — in schools and libraries, in town hall meetings and summer film series. It’s about how the federal government has purposefully ignored or rewritten the US Constitution and international law to illegally arrest, deport, investigate and otherwise harass citizens, immigrants, librarians, even scuba diver shop owners, yes you heard right! I have two other videos like it that are even more in-depth, but this is a start. People should know these things if we say we live in a democracy.

Next up will be the deplorable coverage NBC aired and distributed last week. I hate to even rerun the image I have in mind, but I think it’s important. The post will be called, “What were they thinking?!” And I’ve read op-ed piece they ran to justify it. Nonsense.

Welcome to the neighborhood

I love the doors and gates along our morning walk. I wonder how old it all is, what stories they each could tell…

I thought I’d take you along today… it’s beautiful.

I just can’t get over that I live in a neighborhood with frescoed buildings. There’s more than one fresco like this along our walk, but this was the best photo.

The roses were especially beautiful today.

We are up on a hill over the lake. Can you see that there was mist and fog down on the lake rising behind these flowers?

I love the whimsy of the set of windows painted onto the side of this building. Mufasa doesn’t chase the cat painted sitting in one…

In other news:
I’ve bought my first shoes here. I think this is important, because you can totally tell a person by her shoes. Check these out.

This is my next door neighbor’s house. (I’m standing in my living room taking this photo.) I sit at my lovely new dining table drinking my morning coffee and wonder what they’re up to in the Balmelli Villa, as it’s called. I wonder what they watch on that satellite dish perched atop their mansion… oh to be a Balmelli. Actually, half of everybody in Gentilino is a Balmelli, and it’s been made clear to me that they don’t all live in such grand style.

Cleaning, Unpacking and Neighbors… Oh My!

Spent most of the weekend trying to restore order to my little universe. That, and I called my Mom because I hadn’t spoken to anyone who really knows me in about a month.

It’s strange to be this far away all by myself for an indefinite period of time. I really have no idea how life will go from day-to-day or in the long run and that’s just how it is right now. All I have to do is take care of Mufasa, do my job well and take care of myself… oh and make sure my neighbors aren’t upset with me — which proves to be a bit challenging with the Swiss. If cultures are organized for something, this culture is organized for perfection. I’ve heard so many stories about people receiving registered letters with complaints about their front steps not being adequately swept or the police showing up because the dog barked and the neighbors called the police. This could get interesting!

So I am in my new house and soon will be hosting my first American guest.

Complete Chaos

I can’t take a picture of the way I feel. I’m juggling four classes I’ve never taught, creating the student newspaper, committee meetings beyond anything I could ever imagine, sleeping on a mattress on a floor (with dusty sheets that arrived from Idaho — even Mufasa was happy to see them — he curled right up on a comforter he knows he’s not allowed to sleep on). I can’t get my cell phone to receive calls. I don’t know how to get a phone in my house.

I returned the rental car today and bought another car last night. They’re delivering it today — only it’s a stick, so I’m going to have to get someone else to move it from in front of the school and teach me how to drive it. Hopefully tonight.

Life is going way too fast. I am more flustered than I’ve ever been. Soon, I know, this will all settle… my phones will work, I’ll drive my cute car around… I look good in my clothes that arrived, so at least there’s that!

Mufasa is totally fed up with me. Today I went out to clean the rental car, leaving him in the apartment for about five minutes. When I got back, he’d been up on the kitchen counter, gotten a long, intact baguette and carried the whole lovely loaf down to the downstairs entryway. He laid it, without leaving any marks in it, in the middle of the front hallway floor. I think he was about to eat it when I walked in.

This weekend I will take Sunday off and take him hiking up a mountain. I will cultivate calm and peace and papers graded ready to return.

Freedom fighters

My main goal for Media Law and Ethics is that it not be a boring class. It used to be taught by old, white, male Law professors who assigned dreadfully dry Law textbooks and stood and lectured monotonously. I show videos, we talk about contemporary controversies, we play courtroom roles… it’s as much fun as I can muster. The final exam is to write your own personal code of ethics, and these kids sometimes really surprise me with how much they’re willing to put into them. One young woman ended hers with this anonymous quote:

“The world needs men and women… who cannot be bought; whose word is their bond; who put character above wealth; who possess opinions and a strong will; who are larger than their vocations; who do not hesitate to take risks; who will not lose their individuality in a crowd; who will be as honest in small affairs as in great; who will make no compromise with wrong; whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires; who will not say they do it ‘because everyone else does it;’ who are true to their friends through good and bad, in adversity as well as prosperity; who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheartedness are the best qualities for winning success; who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for truth when it is unpopular; who can say ‘no’ with emphasis, although all the rest of the world says ‘yes.'”

That’s what I’m going for. I’m trying to train a corps of freedom fighters — young people who will go out and fight the negative consequences of media conglomeration by telling good, important stories. I have developed a radical and controversial teaching style. I do things all out. I hear rumors about me all over town! HA! Sometimes I have to clean up my messes after I’ve taken things a bit too far — but it sure is provocative!

It’s the same thing I did, or tried to do, with my former friends who’ve chosen to stay friends with The Ex Husband. I will stand like an old, strong tree in my conviction that domestic violence will not end until we — all of us — won’t stand for it any more.

Hmpf. 🙂