Archives for category: Bite-sized Activism

Today I learned that June is the American Humane Society’s Adopt-A-Cat-Month. I discovered this in the middle of my daily moment of zen, which I really needed after translating 3,000 words on Internet censorship, sending out a reminder to Francophilia members that they only have five days to buy their tickets to the FrancoParty next week, and some other stuff.

I have mentioned in the past that I need the LOLcats for my mental health. And it cheered me up even more than usual when I saw today that ICanHasCheezBurger and PetFinder have teamed up to promote cat adoptions this month.

They’ve made it fun and interactive too. If you’ve ever been tempted to do a LOLcat of your own but haven’t quite known where to start, it’s as easy as 1-2-3-4 this month:

1. Go to PetFinder and find yourself a cat picture.

2. Click the link below the cat picture that says Add to

3. Fill in the fields in the LOL Builder next to the picture.

4. Click Save & Submit.

And you get your own LOLcat. The one I did (below) isn’t clever, and I don’t think I’ve mastered LOL language, but I was willing to humiliate myself for the cause. I hope this guy gets a cheeseburger machine of his own.

Four million cats end up in shelters in the US every year. (And France wins the prize for the most abandoned animals in Europe. Bad, bad Froggies…) So almost every day I almost adopt a dog or a cat. It really won’t be long now, I promise.

My only problem with cats (other than that they walk on your counters and their hair gets everywhere) is that they have an alarming tendency to sleep on your keyboard. But I may yet succumb…

If you make a LOLcat, send me the link. Pleez.

And don’t breed or buy while shelter animals die. Pleez.


“…I love French wine like I love the French language. I have sampled every language, French is my favorite—fantastic language, especially to curse with: Nom de Dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperies de connards d’enculés de ta mère. You see, it’s like wiping your arse with silk, I love it.”

(The Mérovingien in The Matrix 2. Watch Lambert Wilson and swoon…)

So this is about French and toilet paper.

Americans, evidently, do like to wipe their asses with silk. Or the next best thing. According to the ecogeek article Which Is Worse? Hummers Or Toilet Paper?, Americans use “three times more toilet paper than the average European.” (No, they’re not dirty, you’re just wasteful.) To add insult to injury, Americans prefer quilty, cushy TP for their tushies, which are obviously too good for recycled paper; more than 98% of the TP sold in America is from virgin wood. In Europe, on the other hand, nearly 40% of TP sold is made from recycled paper products. Sales of high-end brands are increasing in some US markets despite the deplorable state of the planet. And I won’t even start on how eco-unfriendly wipes must be…

Americans also evidently don’t want to learn French. In Minnesota, a state university has just decided to do away with the French degree program (German too, for that matter). A middle school in New York cites declining enrollment and budgetary constraints as the reasons why French classes are threatened…

(I’m from southern California and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say their kids are taking Spanish because it’s practical and at least they’ll be able to talk to their maids. I am not kidding.)

It could easily be argued that France contributed more to Western civilization than any single culture besides the ancient Greeks, but Americans are generally unaware of that. (Not that they would care if they knew. And they wouldn’t believe the French had invented the Monster Truck anyway…). They don’t realize the extent of France’s economic power, or its geopolitical importance. Americans have no idea that the French are practically the only people who still question everything. They’ve forgotten how important it is to do that.

I’ve always had the impression that Americans think of France as a place that was once an important country even though the men wore tights but that now it’s nothing more than a theme park for francophiles.

Back to toilet paper. Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council have published a handy comparative guide to TP brands (and paper towels, paper napkins and facial tissues) in the US, showing the environmental impact of each of them. You can even print it and fold it up so it’ll fit in your wallet. If you must. If you don’t think you can just remember the good brands to buy.

My advice: If you really want that silky sensation, learn French. And then buy TP made from recycled paper.


(Thanks to Marc Broussard for the tip on ecogeek.)

HADOPI - Le Net en France : black-out

Christine Albanel, France’s Minister of Culture and Communication, wants to cut off Internet access for people who are suspected of illegal filesharing. HADOPI is the body that is supposed to be put in charge of this. They’ll be voting on it in the French Parliament on March 4th.

I don’t feel strongly one way or another about illegal filesharing, but I do feel strongly that Internet acces should be a right, not a privilege.

If you want to know more, go to La Quadrature du Net (in French, and where you can get this and other blackout banners) or ipTegrity (in English).

I got an e-mail from my sister-in-law, one of those that had been forwarded multiple times by people who haven’t yet figured out how to use the BCC field. I had to click down into it to get to the original message, which was in 72-point lime green Comic Sans, with hard returns in the oddest places, like so many of these things… But because it was from my sister-in-law, who always sends good stuff, and because the subject line was “Free food for homeless animals,” I bothered.

I was really glad I did. The very perky message promised it would only take me 20 seconds and one click of a purple button to help feed shelter animals. So I conjured up some kibble with a click:


I then decided to dig a little deeper and share what I found, since the e-mail also asked recipients to forward it to 10 friends. But I opted for this, a sans Comic Sans alternative.

It’s a fundraising site for six very worthy causes, but you don’t actually have to spend any money to help. Click once on the special button at the top of each organizations’ page, and their sponsors will increase their donations.


I went to the other sites (all in a row of tabs at the top of the page) and pushed their buttons too. I helped protect 11.4 square feet of rainforest, helped a needy woman get a free mammogram, helped a kid get medical care, got 1.1 cups of food for someone, and helped someone else learn to read. Magic!

There are other free ways to help: e-cards, signing up for their newsletters, linking to them from your blog, and more. Each site also has its own online store where you can get logo items and also buy free trade products. I fell in love with the Global Girlfriend brand “Pondichery jacquard embroidered tote” on the Animal Rescue Site, and the purple paw logo items were cute as can be. Needless to say, part of the profits go to support the organizations. So next time you need to find a gift, avoid the conventional corporate route and head over to this site. Also in the left column, where are all the products are listed, look for the “Gifts that give more” link (not on every site), which allows you to donate money directly for various things.

You’re allowed one click a day on each button, and they’ve kindly set up an e-mail reminder service if you need help remembering or getting motivated to stop by and click!

Please help spread the word! And thanks Cindy! :-*


After the great victory, Vincent and I were talking about Obama’s various proposals, what he’d realistically be able to do, what the priorities should be… The usual. I then made the mistake of saying that I couldn’t wait to find out about what kind of dog the First Girlies would be getting.

This prompted major eye-rolling on Vincent’s part. He’s always saying we Americans care more about our pets than we do about people. Maybe. I told him that the First Pet is important to Americans. I never really thought about why, though. Maybe it’s that having a pet humanizes the president, which is obviously something Americans need more than the French, who seem to prefer that their leaders remain securely atop pedestals ensconced within ivory towers. (One reason why they have such a problem with Ségolène Royal if you ask me. She’s too real for them. But we think she rocks.)

Of course, then there was Obama’s press conference, during which we got a hint. Vincent was baffled by the whole hypoallergenic dog thing, never having heard of such a concept, not surprisingly. (The French are just not as clinical about things as we are.) He expressed his bafflement, and I said poodles were considered hypoallergenic because they didn’t shed, but that I didn’t know of any other breeds that were.

It appears the French are also curious about the dog, although some of the snooty intellectuals are ridiculing this plebeian obsession with the next Dog of the Free World.

I am a dog person. Cats are immensely cool, and I’d get a kick out of having one (except that they walk on your kitchen counters, and I have an all-American hygiene issue). I love the lolcats. But I am not a cat person.

I grew up with dogs. Poodles, to be precise (my poodle history). I had a beautiful (rescued) redbone coonhound the last few years I was married, but I lost him in my divorce. Broke my heart, but my escape entailed serious residential downsizing and Virgil had to stay where he would have a yard. He was a big boy (80 pounds of pure love).

Since then, I’ve had to get my dog fix in other ways. When I became single, I moved a block away from Dog Beach in San Diego, so I could surround myself with other people’s dogs and revel in their surf-and-frisbee frenzy. There’s a dog in the novel I’m writing. Sassy used to post regular Yuki news, but she has major stuff going on, so I have to do without for now. However, my pal La Belette Rouge is on the verge of becoming a dog mom it seems. I’m looking forward to that.

Paris is crawling with Yorkies, Jack Russells and Bichons. Those seem to be the hot breeds of the bourgeois. Designer dogs to go with their designer clothes. I can walk to pet-store row (over by the Louvre) in 10 minutes, and I do, every now and then for a dose of dog. But it can be depressing too. (There I go again.) I would never buy a dog from a breeder or pet store. (Bumper sticker brainwashing: Don’t breed or buy while shelter dogs die.)

According to the Humane Society, six to eight million dogs enter shelters each year in the US and about half of them are gassed.

Not acceptable.

A few months ago, I started seriously thinking about getting a dog and cruising the shelter pages here in Paris. They don’t make it easy for you to adopt dogs here. Shelters are far outside of the city and since I, like most Parisians, don’t have a car, that limits my options. But I’ll find a way when the time comes. I’ve browsed craigslist and kijiji a few times in search of dogs, but it’s incredibly time consuming and a major pain in the ass.

There are so many ways to keep dogs from being disposed of like used Kleenex if you can’t adopt one yourself. You can make contributions to your local shelter, or volunteer. You could buy a sexy calendar from Pinups for Pups


Miss September, Angela Ryan, and Ella—who was rescued.

Recently, there was a geek contest called Rails Rumble 2008, which is a challenge for developers to create an application using Ruby on Rails in 48 hours. One of the resulting applications from this year’s Rumble is called Forever Home. I think it’s brilliant. Incredibly clean, simple and attractive user interface. And for a good cause.


I went to the site and entered my old zip code in San Diego (it only works for the US and Canada at the moment) and there were 79 pages of dogs that need homes (it only works for dogs right now too). If you’re looking for a dog, that’s exciting. (But when I think that many, if not most of these people impulsively and frivolously got dogs to begin with, it really pisses me off.)

Our dear Polly of Polly-Vous Français ? is leaving Paris for a time. (She’ll be back, I’m certain of it.) But for now, she has to find a home for Lou-Lou, her goldfish. If only Lou-Lou were a dog… Polly has some fabulous stuff she needs to unload, so if you live in Paris, take a look at this site and help Polly purge. Don’t wait! She’s leaving this month!


Under duress, I’ve created a Twitter account. Vincent did too.

Here’s the scoop: Remember that TV show on blogs that Vincent and I were on not too long ago? Well, they’ve asked us back (!) for a live, three-hour show that will cover election night in the US from two hours before the polls close on the west coast till 9:00 pm. That’s 3-6 am here…

One of the things they’d like me to do is be in communication with some of my pals in the US during the broadcast. But none of my Former Life friends do Twitter (that I know of). Their kids probably do…

So if you’re literate and politically informed, with a world view that’s bigger than the balcony of your condo, and you plan to be monitoring what’s going on (election shenanigans, exit polls, media coverage) at an election night party, out in the field, or alone at home, I’d love to hear from you via Twitter or Skype (or iChat or Yahoo or MSN or AIM) that evening.

Since I will be asked what I’m doing, who I’m talking to, etc., if you have a blog or site, a video on YouTube, or any other online incarnation, it could end up on French TV, so be sure to let me know.

You can be of any political persuasion as long as you can play nice and be rational.

Please forward the link to this post to any friends who might be interested!

See you Tuesday!


Those words are evocative, aren’t they? They could be poetry or song lyrics. They could be ad copy.

Yet they are nothing more than Marie Sambou’s wishlist. She asked for a small loan through Kiva to buy these things so she could resell them.


Today is the second annual Blog Action Day. It’s a grassroots event to get bloggers all over the world talking about the same topic. Last year, the theme was “environment.” This year it’s “poverty.”

I don’t know anyone who really knows what poverty means. I don’t.


I had a safe and sound middle-class childhood. Snug as a bug in a rug. Nothing worse than monsters under my bed to deal with.

That sheltered little girl only caught glimpses of poverty. I have very vivid childhood memories of being swarmed by grubby little children in ragged clothes trying to sell us Chiclets gum for pennies on the rare occasions when my mother took me and my brother with her to shop in Tijuana, the border town just south of San Diego. They were all so much smaller than I was. Not necessarily younger, just smaller. I couldn’t know then that it was about nutrition.

I remember that it was scary and it felt wrong not to buy their gum. And I wanted to buy some from all of them, like some kind of reverse trick or treat.

The Great(er) Depression

Vincent and I were talking about the financial crisis the other day. We’re both against rescuing the people who have been gambling with the livelihoods and lives of the world’s inhabitants. We think they need a reality check and a significant correction of their own. My only fear is that innocent people could suffer if we let them go down in flames. But Vincent rightly pointed out that “The worst that could happen is spoiled Westerners might have to…” and he paused. So I finished his sentence: “…live like Africans.”

A world of hurt might actually do a world of good. Level the playing field. Bring an end to the cycle of mindless, selfish, wasteful, destructive consumption in developed countries.

Obscene Wealth (Is there any other kind?)

A few months ago, Vincent and Claire and I were talking about whether it was ethical to travel as tourists to places where there is abject poverty. Vincent says it’s obscene. I agreed, but said it was probably good for Westerners to at least see it (he said “Bullshit”) and that tourist dollars feed economies. Claire thinks the world should be experienced, period. I agree with her too.

I’ve wanted to go to Africa and India for a very long time. I don’t know if I ever will. I’m too conflicted.

Assuaging Guilt?

Even though I don’t have much to give, one thing I do have is a fancy degree in French translation (which I’ll be paying for till I die). I’ve translated some interesting stuff in the past and some things I’ve been pretty proud of, but nothing comes close to making me feel good about my work like the translations I’m doing for Kiva as a volunteer. There is something so humbling and life-affirming in reading the requests of micro-entrepreneurs in francophone Africa who want to buy 10 cases of soap, or 5 baskets of fish, or dye to batik their white cloth and make bedsheets out of it. Or palm oil, honey and lemon juice. Their industry and drive and hope are awe inspiring.

There you go. I haven’t got much more to say about this subject than a beauty queen would: I just wish for an end to poverty.

Please enjoy this beautiful video: Umalali: Songs of the Garifuna Women and learn more about the Garifuna Women’s Project.

You can also read the post I wrote for Blog Action Day on Web Worker Daily.