Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Writer's Almanac Brightens My Day

Oh, how I love The Writer's Almanac. Each day I open my email box, and amid the sales pitches, announcements of Dancing Rabbit meeting topics, the occasional note from a friend and the endless tasks to be added to my to-do list, is The Writer's Almanac.

Published daily, it consists of a poem and then snippets about the lives of authors appropriate to the day. Here is today's poem:


by George Bilgere

In the morning, after much delay,
I finally go down to the basement
to replace the broken dryer belt.

First I unbolt the panels
and sweep up the dust mice and crumbling spiders.
I listen to the sounds of the furnace
thinking things over
at the beginning of winter.

Then I stretch out on the concrete floor
with a flashlight in my mouth
to contemplate the mystery
of the pulley-tensioner assembly.

And finally, with a small, keen pleasure,
I slip the new belt over the spindle, rise,
and screw everything back together.

Later, we have a birthday dinner
for my wife's grandmother, who is dying
of bone cancer. Maybe,
if they dial up the chemo, fine tune the meds,
we'll do this again next year.

But she's old, and the cancer
seems to know what it's doing.
Everyone loves her broccoli casserole.
as for the cake, it sits on the table,
a small brown mountain we can't see beyond.

That night I empty the washer,
throw the damp clothes in the dryer.
For half an hour my wife's blouses
wrestle with my shirts
in a hot and whirling ecstasy,

because I replaced an ancient belt
and adjusted the pulley-tensioner assembly.

"Whirlpool" by George Bilgere. © George Bilgere. Reprinted with permission.

How fabulous is THAT! I love being able to take five minutes out of my morning to experience the joy of words, to feel emotions conveyed by those who took the time to craft their feelings into a tangible, sharable package.

Today is the late Frank McCourt's birthday. What a writer he was! Read this snippet:

"People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying school masters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. Above all — we were wet."

Is that not a perfect paragraph? It is the book Angela's Ashes in a nutshell. (Have you not read it? You MUST!)

That's it for now. I have four dozen ears of sweet corn to do something spectacular with. What I'd really like to do is steam them all and sit down with a cube a butter, a salt shaker and a big napkin and pig out...but maybe 48 ears is too much even for me! Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How I Learned to Love Rechargeable Batteries

Until just recently I have considered rechargeable batteries to be a big pain in the, um, neck. I used them, but reluctantly. They did not last very long, needed increasingly more recharging, and were just plain annoying. They were especially problematic with my digital camera – they seemed to last only a day or so before needing recharging. I am clearly not the most patient person in the world, but they made living a more sustainable life feel like a hardship rather than a good thing.

However, this past spring the heavens parted, the angels sang and the answer to all of my battery prayers came to me in the form of eneloop Rechargeable Batteries from Sanyo.

I love them. They come fully charged, which is incredibly convenient. They last a long, long time – I’ve had two in my camera for weeks now, and have still not had to recharge it. And unlike their large, cumbersome predecessors, the rechargers are small and compact – they smaller than the size of a pack of playing cards. Yes, they're a bit more expensive (as a comparison a Duracell AA 8-pack retails for $26.00, and the eneloop 8-pack retails for $40.00). At first glance, this seems gulp-worthy. However, I fully expect my eneloop batteries to last me YEARS, instead of the weeks or even days of the Duracell. I'll keep you posted on how these batteries work for me. They're still new on the market (just came out in spring '09) and so NO ONE has had them for very long.

Another couple of cool features: they have "D Spacer" set, which means that you do not have to buy additional "D" batteries. Once you have the spacers you can use your AA batteries instead of "D"s. Gotta love that!

Even better, the chargers fit both AA and AAA. There is even a USB charger to plug into your computer.

I like these eneloop batteries so much I feel confident about selling them in the Milkweed Mercantile. (NOTE: This site does not carry any advertising – I want you to know that I am not being paid to endorse a product, and to be able to trust what you read here. But when I find something that I really like, I feel compelled to share the information.) As soon as we have them up on the Mercantile store site I'll post the link.

But Back to Reality...
Rechargeable batteries are still batteries, though, and need to be disposed of responsibly. The Milkweed Mercantile will be accepting eneloop batteries for recycling when they reach the end of their productive lives. For those who are not in the immediate Scotland County area, the battery industry sponsors the operations of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation which will direct you to the nearest battery recycling or drop-off point.

The following information is from and written by E Magazine’s Earth Talk. I have double-checked the links, eliminated the ones that were either inappropriate or non-functional, and edited for length.

Today’s common household batteries—those ubiquitous AAs, AAAs, Cs, Ds and 9-volts from Duracell, Energizer and others—are not thought to pose as great a threat to properly equipped modern landfills as they used to because they contain much less mercury than their predecessors. As a result, most municipalities now recommend simply throwing such batteries away with your trash.

Battery Disposal or Recycling? Nevertheless, environmentally concerned consumers might feel better recycling such batteries anyway, as they still do contain trace amounts of mercury and other potentially toxic stuff. Some municipalities will accept these batteries (as well as older, more toxic ones) at household hazardous waste facilities, from which they will most likely be sent elsewhere to be processed and recycled as components in new batteries.

How to Recycle Batteries Other options abound, such as the mail-order service, Battery Solutions, which will recycle your spent batteries at a cost of 85 cents per pound. the national chain, Batteries Plus, is happy to take back disposable batteries for recycling at any of its 255 retail stores coast-to-coast.

Older Batteries Should Always Be Recycled Consumers should note that any old batteries they may find buried in their closets that were made before 1997—when Congress mandated a widespread mercury phase-out in batteries of all types—should most surely be recycled and not discarded with the trash, as they may contain as much as 10 times the mercury of newer versions.

The Problem of Rechargeable Batteries Perhaps of greater concern nowadays is what’s happening to spent rechargeable batteries from cell phones, MP3 players and laptops. Such items contain potentially toxic heavy metals sealed up inside, and if thrown out with the regular garbage can jeopardize the environmental integrity of both landfills and incinerator emissions. Luckily, the battery industry sponsors the operations of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), which facilitates the collection of used rechargeable batteries collected in an industry-wide “take back” program for recycling.

Additional Battery Recycling Options Consumers can help by limiting their electronics purchases to items that carry the RBRC logo on their packaging. Furthermore, they can find out where to drop off old rechargeable batteries (and even old cell phones) by calling RBRC’s hotline at 1-800-8BATTERY or by visiting the online drop location finder at Also, most Radio Shack stores will take back rechargeable batteries and deliver them to RBRC free-of-charge. RBRC then processes the batteries via a thermal recovery technology that reclaims metals such as nickel, iron, cadmium, lead and cobalt, repurposing them for use in new batteries.