Africa Lights the Way

In the dark and cold season, with the snow blowing and a wind that cuts like a knife, here’s some warm and shiny news from Kenya…

KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.

Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.

Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.

That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.

The future is small, smart and decentralized. Will we win the energy race, or will we be buying Chinese solar panels because we did not invest in manufacturing our own? I have faith, and I believe that the prize for this race will be one giant step for mankind.

Read the rest of the story here.

Also, read between the lines. Sara Ruto’s energy use is modest and focused on what is essential for her family. Conservation and non-wastefulness are part of the mix. I’m going to switch off a couple of lights now. If enough people do that it makes a difference.

Wages O’ Sin

Just a typical 20-year-old girl who might go to college. A good girl who made a bad choice, but now talks to teens about abstinence.

Bristol Palin bought a house with $172,000 in cash.

God bless America, land of opportunity. If only more young people would follow her example.

In related news, Nadya Suleman, aka Octomom, is facing eviction from the house where she raises 14 children in four bedrooms. She can’t keep up with the mortgage.

Sarah Palin should invite her to Alaska. The exposure would translate into income, which Ms. Suleman badly needs. Show some charity, Sarah, help a fellow celebrity. She can boost your reality show too, it’s all good.

And let’s send a Christmas wish to the original owners of the Bristol house, who paid twice what she paid, and got foreclosed. Tough luck for making ‘bad choices’. I can’t find any info about them on the net. They could have been among the many who bought houses during the real estate bubble, only to find themselves with an underwater mortgage. After the crash, in the normal course of things, rich people will pick up bargains. It’s the way of nature, like a daughter grizzly eating a baby moose.

Grief on Christmas

This isn’t crazy. The young man I saw lying on the floor at the IMH, wetting his finger to pick up bits of dirt, which he ate– he was crazy.

From ProJo.com…

“Yelling, screaming, for us it wasn’t that unusual,” said Frank.

But something about the voice on Christmas Day grabbed Diana’s attention. The woman used no words, just vented an unspeakable sorrow.

“I said someone died there,” Diana recalled on Sunday afternoon. “I just knew.”

Tragically, her intuition was correct, and the police are calling it homicide.

The screams had come from Linda Silva, who had just found the body of her daughter, Staria Silva, in the second-floor apartment at 9 Fifth St. Staria’s twin nine-month-old daughters lay crying not far from their mother.

Raymond Grundy was following a well-worn script when he murdered the mother of his children. He wounded a community and devastated a family. But the story of the poor put-upon man who couldn’t take it anymore is probably the story playing in his mind. He’s not crazy, he’s acting true to form.

No remedy now, we will lock him up till he gets back out. In the long run, we have to so disgrace the domestic abuser that no one will want to play that role.

Thank you to the Providence Journal reporters Kate Bramson and Paul Edward Parker, who looked past the lurid crime to the suffering and loss of Staria Silva’s family. We need more reporters who will show us the true cost of crime.

If you know of anyone who needs help and advice on stopping domestic violence, call–

1-800-494-8100 or go online at stopdomesticviolence.info

Help yourself or someone you know.

A Real American Holiday

A First-Class Holiday

Melonyce Mc Afee in Slate.com has an affectionate memoir about Kwanzaa past.

Two things I like about Kwanzaa– it starts on December 26, perfect for procrastinators, and you don’t have to buy a lot of presents. It’s also made in America.

But what’s more American than tweaking an institution to suit your needs? Some folks who don’t go to church pine for more than the dancing black Santa from Wal-Mart. Plus, Kwanzaa and Christmas are not mutually exclusive—’tis the season of peaceful co-existence. A rule of Kwanzaa states that one “should not mix the Kwanzaa holiday or its symbols, values and practice with any other culture.” But Kwanzaa starts the day after Christmas, so until Dec. 26, you can drink eggnog out of a gourd shell.

Melonyce may have Unitarian tendencies.

There’s a rainbow of religious holidays this month, all observed in America. From Hanukkah, at the start of December, to Watch Night on the 31st. Gathering in the dark time to celebrate the light began before history.

Yule has come and gone, and I’m trying to not peek at the Almanac. The root meaning of the word ‘solstice’ is ‘pause’. You don’t want to look at the times for sunrise and sunset if you are craving the light. The sun actually rises a minute later and the daylight is increasing only by seconds.

It is a good time to pause, if you have opted out of the mall madness. I’m gonna buy some gifts next week, just in time for Boxing Day.

Adele M. Stan at Alter.net says that giving up Christmas saved her sanity. She opted instead for a silent night where all is calm…

Now, I’m not anti-Christmas. I love the decorations, the special foods, and some of the seasonal music. I’m not religious in the traditional sense, but Christmas Eve often finds me in church, hearing friends sing in choirs, or play liturgical music. I love the Christmas story: the notion of the redemption of the world through the birth of a child is breathtakingly beautiful. And so I come back to that.

My solitude rarely lasts a whole day: it lasts just as long as I need it to. Friends drop by on their way home from their Christmas feasts. Or I decide to do something non-Christmas-y for a few hours, as I will this year, joining a Jewish friend for Chinese food and a movie with his little boy.

I got out to Central Congregational Church last weekend for a wonderful concert. At the end they turned off the lights and we saw the church by candlelight– which was how past generations saw the world.

Past generations had many ways of celebrating Christmas, from sitting on a hard pew listening to hellfire, to a twelve-day feast.

We can pick and choose, create our own rituals, start new traditions– they were all new once, and take a pause in the dark of the year to light a candle.

Merry Christmas, Rhode Island! We’re Not as Bad Off as Everyone Thinks We Are

My husband alerted me to a fabulous data analysis tool at The New York Times, which lets you view census data in color maps. The one that caught his eye, and then mine, was this one which shows the Change in Median Household income from 2000, which shows that all of Rhode Island has experienced an increase in median household income, with a 3% increase in Providence County, a 1% increase in Kent County, a 2% increase in Washington County, and a 6% increase in Bristol County. That’s right — in one of the worst economic times in our country, we are doing better than much of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

So there you go. And to add to the positive data on Rhode Island, Forbes Magazine reports that Cranston, RI is one of the most stable housing markets in the country. (h/t riclapp.org — had a great Christmas brunch there this morning!) Must be everyone jockeying for position to live near me~!

So breathe a deep sigh of relief this Christmas, Rhode Islanders. We are not on the verge of collapse, and if we could reform our energy policies so that biodiesel and alternative fuels could become our mainstays, we might even survive another few generations. All I can say is it’s more proof that you should ignore the nay-sayers, and never trust anyone who tries to tell you the rich need more tax breaks. Happy Holidays to all!