Some links and signs of spring

Written By: Miranda - Mar• 16•11

On the way to work this morning I heard an NPR piece about Ramy Essam, the musician who was “arrested” and tortured by the army last week. I wondered if any of the 23 year olds I know are capable of saying as Ramy does now that  he “still believes that there are honest people who will investigate what happened.” I have to believe that they would, when push came to shove. There is another piece about Ramy here, at The Traveller Within.

In other news, I smelled a skunk along True’s Brook Road and that’s a sure sign of spring. Also my friend Tom emailed me at work to tell me he had spotted a Red-winged Blackbird at the feeder. Yay! Hearing their trilling call is always a thrilling moment in the spring.


Weekly Roundup

Written By: Miranda - Mar• 12•11

Let’s see…

In Egypt, protestors surrounded and occupied various branches of the State Security – finding many documents and files as well as torture equipment. Hossam  Arabwy, a blogger and union activist I’ve been following saw the very cell where he’d been confined and tortured, spent the day sobbing off and on and then published pictures of all the State Security people on Flikr which then removed the pictures because of copyright violation. A musician I had last seen video of playing the guitar in Tahrir was detained and tortured by the army, previously seen as an ally to the protestors.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, there have been rumors of nerve gas used against protestors. Libyans, continue to fight against the insane Gaddafi family, while the rest of the world tries to figure out how to help or even to help at all. Saudis stayed home from their scheduled protests because everything’s just hunky-dory there.

Representative King held congressional hearings here in the US to investigate radical Islamic terrorism, hearings which did not bother calling any experts in the matter. In the past King supported Ireland’s terrorists, the I. R. A., but I guess this is different.

And there’s been a massive earthquake in Japan with an accompanying tsunami.

My brother’s lungs are slowly filling with fluid down in Florida, it seems this experimental cancer drug is nor working for him.

Chickadees have begun singing their spring mating song: “fee – beee”

So it goes…


Written By: Miranda - Mar• 10•11

Ice storm

Not revolution 2.0

Written By: Miranda - Mar• 05•11

I don’t think that online communication – Facebook, Twitter – made these revolutions happen. I am aware that many people have been working for these for years.

Wael Ghonim’s talk at TED is worth watching though. And if you haven’t heard of TED – Ideas Worth Spreading, check it out


Government by “The People”

Written By: Miranda - Mar• 03•11

In a small state like Vermont, that means you. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and at Town Meeting I asked about being on the Planning Commission. I know they’ve got three people leaving for one reason or another and they need people badly.

I’m used to thinking of myself as a good citizen because I always vote, because I go to the yearly Town Meeting, because I write letters to the editor about issues I care about, because if I really care a lot (like when we were building up to going to war with Iraq) I’ll go out and walk in the cold with a lot of other people. But I haven’t given service time to my town government and it’s a lot of work to keep a town running. I’d rather volunteer at the Historical Society, truth be known, but that’s probably why the Planning Commission needs the people. Besides, a posting on the town listserve claims there are cookies at the meetings.

I’ve heard that one should “Think Globally, Act Locally” and just as I haven’t been thinking globally, I haven’t been doing a lot of acting locally either. Not in terms of the real work. It means giving up some evenings when I’d rather just go home and lie on the couch.

Following people from far away on Twitter has really opened up my world to things I never used to think about because it’s work. It’s work to learn about other countries and stay aware of what’s happening in them. To care. It’s so much easier to not pay attention.

It’s so much easier to just go to work and come home and not bother to go spend your evening at a meeting of some town committee too but I’m beginning to think democracy takes more work than I’ve been putting into it.

Democracy is alive

Written By: Miranda - Feb• 26•11

As I sit here in my living room, drinking coffee and preparing to go to my yearly Town Meeting people all over the world are facing death so they can do the same.

The Women of Darnah:


Alive in Egypt

Alive in Bahrain

Alive in Iraq

Alive in Libya

Town Meeting

Written By: Miranda - Feb• 25•11

Town Meeting is Saturday and I’m totally unprepared. I’ve recently moved and my town report is late. We have Town Meeting once a year in Thetford, to discuss and vote on the town budget and vote on any articles before the town. Vermont and New Hampshire both hold Town Meetings, I don’t know of any other states that do. It’s really one of the few examples of truly participatory democracy I can think of. Thetford’s modernized to the extent that we have it on a Saturday.

There’s usually some sort of ceremony beforehand, it varies but one of the best was in 2007 when a local pastor named Tom Kinder gave an invocation (fancy name for prayer) and it went like this:

Spirit of lovingly baked pie for Town Meeting lunch, we invoke your generosity to be in all our hearts.

O Spirit of volunteers standing out in the woods in a cold rain to make Thetford’s famous cross country meets possible, we invoke your dedication, patience and endurance.

O Spirit of a stranger from Rice’s Mills helping a stranger from Post Mills out of a snow bank and the two strangers becoming neighbors without it mattering where they stand on taxes or school issues, we invoke you to be in every neighbor here today.

O Spirit of the justice that love demands and peace depends on, that moves us both to make sacrifices for our children and to make sacrifices for people with low incomes, we invoke you.

O Spirit that moves us across all our divisions to come together as one community to support a family in a time of tragedy, we invoke you.

O Spirit of stopping on Academy Road to watch a moonrise over Smart’s Mountain, or stopping on Sawnee Bean to watch a moose, or stopping to help get in hay in Thetford Center before the rain, or stopping by a well-tended woods on a snowy evening to watch it fill up with snow, we invoke you to remind us of our common sources of love and peace in the wild and working land here.

O Spirit of humor that breaks tedium or tension, O Spirit of insight that transforms opposition into compassion, O Spirit of the understanding that we have far more in common than we can ever have in conflict, we invoke you.

O Spirit of those who have gone before us, of those now dead whom we remember offering their humor or wisdom or passion at Town Meeting, of those multitudes of Thetford citizens whose names we have forgotten who met and made this town good and kept it going for us to inherit, we invoke you now.

Please help us do our part today, giving thanks for all who have gone and all who have cared enough to come. Let us show our gratitude by treating our neighbors with all the civility, respect and kindness that your spirit of love and peace inspires, so that Thetford may continue to be your home and a good home to us all.

Tom KInder –  First Congregational Church

I am not a religious person (no! no!) but that’s the kind of prayer I can get behind. It’s a beautiful church too, one of the oldest in Vermont, and I always go there late at night on July 3rd when people gather to read the Declaration of Independence and ring the church bell once for every year the country’s been founded starting at midnight. We wake the whole town up! But everybody expects it.

This year will be especially meaningful for many of us I think. Being reminded that so many are dying for the chance at something that we get to do and that we (me) have sometimes skipped altogether and just voted on the school budget later in the week is a sobering thought.

Cat People

Written By: Miranda - Feb• 24•11

Bessa in poppies

Reading about disasters, wars, suffering of every kind through the screen of written news or television.. the information has always been there but the information has never been so immediate, so graphic and so personal.

Because Twitter does feel personal, it is personal conversations, personal connections as well as news a full day ahead of most traditional news sources.

One reason I had been following events in Bahrain as closely as I was that night is because of JustAmira, Amira Al Hussaini. I had been reading her blog,  and the night I watched the Twitter stream in horror as the protestors were overrun in Pearl Roundabout, Amira’s heartbreak  was evident. Ethan Zuckerman wrote a post on his blog about that – Watching Bahrain through a friends’s eyes, heartbroken which describes that better than anything I could write because he actually does know Amira..

And she has cats.

Amira Al Hussaini

@JustAmira Amira Al Hussaini
Smokey after hearing Gaddafi speak

(If you saw any clips of that speech you’ll understand Smokey’s reaction)

I have cats too. Too many cats some might say. At the moment we have Little Cat (the Zen Kitty), Buddy, Tyler, Bessa and Snickers.

Little Cat is diabetic, recently diagnosed. He practices feline non-violence for all living creatures except for very small spiders and moths.

He is actually my son’s cat and will move back over to my house in Thetford when Chris gets home along with Buddy the obese, demented calico.  I’ll miss his extra special slow motion serenity but I will keep my smudgy nosed Tyler and the little Bessa. It’s a tossup which household will have to deal with Snickers.

I commented on Mr. Zuckerman’s blog that it was a stupid thing to make me fell close to Amira, but that it did anyway and a couple other commenters disagreed. One said it was a rapid sharing of knowledge to know that the other was a cat person. I actually think that’s true, now.

And then, last night, another “tweep” (I still am not into the lingo) named Ali Seif that I have been following for several weeks now, posted some links to pictures of his hometown, Beirut (a beautiful city) and before you could say spit others were tweeting – “here’s a picture of my village in Scotland”, the “view from my grandfather’s land in Syria”, “my hometown in Florida” – and I could not resist, I sent a link to our dirt road in Thetford and a picture of the beaver pond one snowy morning several years ago.  It was a global sharing that was very powerful, very beautiful.

I know that since that snowy night, sitting in my living room in my tiny township in Vermont when I listened to Mona Seif’s phone call my life has changed, and I think it’s more than just me. It’s the video message of support that the Independent Egyptian Unions sent to the protestors in Wisconsin and the Facebook page set up by a pizza joint in Madison where you can order a pizza to be delivered to the Statehouse there to feed them, which has gotten orders from a ton of countries as well as all 50 of our states. It’s people to people and I think it’s beautiful.


Written By: Miranda - Feb• 17•11

Subtitle: Why I need to take a break from Twitter

I had been wondering how one could use Twitter in classes, it seemed to me that this was an incredibly rich way for students to learn. I am not a teacher but on Friday night I wrote to a history teacher who has always been open to using new things in her classes: I told her I thought she could do some exciting things with it. I said :

Have the students pick out some people to follow, ordinary people as well as any news sources
Once you are following them have students look at their profiles and follow links to their blogs. You get to know people like:

litfreak Nora
by Beltrew
Is it wrong I’ll be using #Jan25 as an excuse 4 everything?”Why are you buying more makeup, Nora?””Cos there was a mothereffing revolution”

litfreak Nora
by monaeltahawy
“Why can’t you cook, Nora?” (–>Mama) “My generation started a mothereffing revolution.”

That tells you something about Nora doesn’t it? Her blog will tell you more. So will her photo albums. Let the kids learn about the People. Make it personal

They post pictures from the protests via twitter, videos. Incredibly rich source!!!

She was enthusiastic and her students made Twitter accounts and formed a list. Tuesday evening I got home planning a peaceful evening of sanding woodwork and watching the Daily Show, something I’ve neglected lately. I checked my email and looked through the newest links on Twitter. I had been following a woman named Amira Al Hussain from Bahrain on Twitter,  and had just sent the AP History list a link to some “stories” she had posted on Storify, stories formed of Tweets that I thought were very cool.

And then the whole thing exploded in front of my eyes.

@Beltrew: This is very worrying, there are reports of women and children on the square. Gun fire being used on sleeping protesters. #Bahrain

RT @FroozyO: Riot police are shooting aimlessly at anyone. They have closed us in and we can’t escape. Tear gas everywhere. …

@FroozyO: They’re shooting rubber bullets…there’s tear gas everywhere we can’t see$ please help some bone #feb14 #Bahrain

RT @emoodz: Tweeps at #lulu confirm being attacked by tear gas at 3AM #bahrain time, conflicting reports of rubber bullets #feb14

RT @JustAmira: @monasosh Please make noise! We did it for Egypt: PLEASE HELP US #Jan25 #Sidibouzid #Feb14

And turning to Al Jazeera’s live stream I heard the phone interviews from the hospital, hysterical voices, women screaming.  The twitter feed was coming up with links to videos and pictures from the attack. And it was the children, the children that froze my blood. As a mother, thinking of children being caught up in such horror, children missing, gassed, shot at. 3AM in Bahrain and families were overrun and attacked while they were sleeping.

and I wrote myself:

How can I have a life when I know things like this are happening? #bahrain #feb14
Answer: I can’t. I can’t. It is one thing to view these events through the softer scrim of a newspaper account, but seeing it as it happens when one is helpless, thousands of miles away is very hard to bear. It is affecting every part of my life, and I do have a life, I have a job and a diabetic cat and a car that’s just blown its cam seal that I cannot really afford to fix, yet I can’t afford to buy a new car and dishes and an ordinary life in an ordinary small town.

Krystal Smith

Written By: Miranda - Feb• 17•11

On another sort of topic entirely I’d like to take a moment to recognize Krystal Smith, from Burlington, Vermont who has been crowned the nation’s top grocery bagger.

Bagging groceries is an art and I recognize an artist when I see them work, which I do not much these days unfortunately.  When I do run across someone who is a good bagger and hands me a compactly packed bag, heavy stuff at the bottom and no big spaces – a really well packed grocery bag – I make sure to compliment them because I think a lot of people don’t bother. You’ll see some snarky comments at the bottom of the article about grocery bagging but I tell you what I’ve suffered through a lot of otherwise intelligent, college educated or college bound baggers at Dan and Whit’s, the Co-op or Coburn’s Market and if you come up and tell me you think you’re too smart to bag groceries I’m quite likely to tell you that you may not be smart enough.

Congratulations Krystal! Well Done!