Archive for the Help The World Category

Earthquake in Haiti

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Needless to say, they needed yesterday’s earthquake about as much as the plague (which they had not too long ago). Here are a few avenues to assist relief efforts from your computer:


  • Text “HAITI” to 90999 and you will be charged for a $10 donation to International Red Cross relief efforts.
  • cell carriers will send on a $5 donation on your account if you text YELE to 501501.  Wyclef Jean has apparently verified this on CNN.  


  • Mercy Corps, with extensive experience responding to earthquakes (e.g., recent Indonesian Quake), quickly organizing relief effort.
  • Save The Children has offices in Haiti and have begun efforts to assist.
  • Oxfam International provides assistance to victims of emergencies and ongoing disasters throughout the world.  Here’s a direct link to support Oxfam’s Haiti relief effort.
  • Doctors Without Borders (aka Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF) is an international group of medical professionals who work in chronically underserved countries, emergency sites and refugee camps around the world.  They have not yet announced plans to go to Haiti, from what I can find, but they certainly will.  With the collapse of the hospital in Port-au-Prince, their help will be especially needed.
  • World Vision, already on the ground, and where you can also sponsor a Haitian child under their care.
  • This Org . apparently does extensive work in Haiti, but I’ve personally never heard of it before.


If anyone has other recommendations, please feel free to add.

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Help Yourself. Help The World. Then Brag About How You’re A Wonderful Person.

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Today’s Subject: Fish & Such.  

A tuna has been sold at auction in Tokyo’s fish market for 16.28 million yen ($175,000, £109,000),  

Tuna stocks are running low, but it tastes so f'n good! What should I do?

the highest price paid in Japan for nine years.  

No word if the purchaser paid cash, put 5% down, or is planning to move his family into the starter bluefin tuna. 

 I enjoy seafood.  I’ve always loved sushi, and bluefin tuna (Tsukji) was often a part of my order. In fact, if you saw me at sushi place, and I was a foot shorter, millions richer, and a bigger douchebag, you might confuse me with Jeremy Piven.     

Homo sapiens have done their best to mess with oceanic ecosystems. On the other hand, seafood can please the tongue. On yet another hand, some fish like tuna contain so much mercury (poison) that it is not really safe to eat. So is it possible to be healthy, show respect for the sea, and maintain the smug satisfaction of letting people know you saw the local weatherman at that new overpriced Japanese restaurant? Let’s see. 

Sustainability According to the WWF, unless catches are dramatically reduced (as in a complete halt to fishing in May and June), spawning bluefin tuna will entirely disappear from the east Atlantic by 2012.  

 Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries and WWF Mediterranean said,  

Mediterranean (Atlantic) bluefin tuna is collapsing as we speak and yet the fishery will kick off again tomorrow for business as usual. It is absurd and inexcusable to open a fishing season when stocks of the target species are collapsing. 

When new quota levels for bluefin tuna were set last November (’08), amid political wrangling, they were described as being a ‘mockery of science’, ignoring the evidence that the East Atlantic bluefin tuna populations were falling so quickly that they could soon be listed as an endangered species.  

And that’s just the Atlantic. No one catches or eats more bluefin and yellow tail tuna than the Japanese. The fact is, we’re overfishing with no end in sight.   


From a recent article in The Economist

A recent study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) found traces of methylmercury, a form of mercury that is readily absorbed, in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country. In around a quarter of those fish, the amount of mercury was above the level set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for human consumption. Mercury levels at more than two-thirds of the sites exceeded what scientists believe fish-eating mammals, such as mink and otters, should ingest. 

The leading source of mercury is pollution from coal-burning power plants, which accounts for 40% of all domestic anthropogenic mercury, according to the EPA. It is emitted through smokestacks and deposited in rain and snow, often making its way into the water. Mercury can be toxic, and adult exposure to it can lead to reproductive problems, memory loss and tremors. Prenatal and infant exposure can cause mental retardation, deafness and blindness. The National Research Council, an organisation that looks at science and public policy, estimates that more than 60,000 children are born each year at risk of learning disabilities because they have been exposed to methylmercury in the womb. 

The fish lobby points out that the USGS findings do not necessarily damn the commercial fish industry, as most of the fish people eat comes from the ocean and not from freshwater streams. But mercury levels are high in marine fish, too—particularly in larger species, such as shark, tuna and swordfish. Mercury accumulates as it works its way up the food chain. A report released earlier this year by Harvard and the USGS forecasts that mercury levels in the Pacific Ocean will rise by 50% by 2050 as emissions from coal-fired power plants increase. 

Consumers are now trying to understand how the USGS study’s findings should influence their eating habits.. This shows the need for clearer guidance from the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on fish consumption by pregnant women, says Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group, which keeps an eye on toxins in food. He says the FDA has “historically been in the pocket of the tuna industry”, and has failed to give specific directives about how to get the health benefits of fish while avoiding mercury.  The news about mercury also underscores the importance of developing a federal policy to control emissions. 

 What to do?  

Waiting for the nations of the world to agree on (yet alone, enforce) catch limits or limit on pollutants is probably an exercise in futility. If the ramifications of your food consumption tickles your conscience, here’s a pretty standard list of the “eco-impact” of popular seafood. 


  • All Eco-Worst Fish »

    If you need a tuna fix, the MSC recommends white albacore tuna. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the idea that these hippies may be right: 

    Faced with ocean acidification, coral reef die-offs, dead zones, the doubtful shadow of oceanic geoengineering, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, piracy caused by overfishing, chemical and sonic pollution – and now the starvation of larger marine animals – isn’t it time to do the oceans a favour by eating less fish or not at all? 

    Swim on, you crazy diamonds.

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    Help Yourself. Help The World. Then Brag About How You’re A Wonderful Person.

    Posted by Matt on Friday, December 4th, 2009

    Today’s Subject:  Saving Energy This Winter

    Heating costs will rise this winter.  But all is not lost.  With a little time and effort, you can make enough difference to give yourself a self-glorifying anecdote for your next cocktail party.

    1.   Seal every window and unused door with clear plastic. It may cost what seems to be a lot upfront – but your savings will be manifest almost immediately. Also seal any wall-mounted air conditioning units as these often bleed warm air. And seal over air vents in bathrooms and in your kitchen. These literally drain heat from your home faster than anything except an open door! Create a Velcro™ latch on the plastic wrap and only use them when necessary (meaning after bathroom use and during cooking on the stovetop). Keep them firmly sealed at all other times.

    I don’t know about this Velcro idea, but I spent a good portion of yesterday sealing our windows.  It definitely helped bring our heating costs down in years past.  While working with 2-sided tape reminds me of struggling to unhook the bra of my Junior High girlfriend,  it’s worth it the next time you encounter a casual conversation concerning windows.  (I’d like to clarify I was also in Junior High at the time I was dating said girl.  I don’t have those same issues with my current Junior High girlfriend.)

    2.  Turn your thermostat back to 60 degrees. Yes, I know this sounds chilly – but if you do it slowly, you will adjust to a slightly lower temperature in the weeks before the truly frigid temperatures arrive. I have found that wearing a Snuggie™ (or, to save money, a thermal blanket with head and arm holes cut into it) will keep one toasty warm even if the home itself is on the cool side.

    60 won’t fly in our place.  However, if you ‘randomly’ heat your house – turn off heat until you get too cold before running it for 30 minutes – it will help cut costs as well.  This guy wants an excuse to wear his Snuggie, and who can blame him.

    3.  Close off rooms you do not use. This means sealing the doorway (especially the bottom where door meets frame.) Use either a sliding barrier or else tape a towel on either side, making sure the towel passes under the entire door bottom and seals the space between door and frame. I find that towels work best, are cheap, and are easily removed and replaced if you need to enter the room during the Winter.

    Unused Panic Rooms, Dungeons and Grow Rooms are prime examples.  If you have a Grow Room, you may already have some towels by the door.

    4.  Find hidden’ air leaks by lighting an incense stick and walking from room to room and along walls. If the smoke does not rise vertically, you have a leak. Find it and plug it. Also move the incense along baseboards to locate hidden draft openings you cannot feel directly – and plug them with caulk or some other sealant.

    You can turn this into some sort amusing activity, like pretending to be the torch-bearer for the Buddhist Olympics.   Everybody wins. Or is it nobody?

    5.  If you have ceiling fans, set them to rotate CLOCKWISE and turn them on LOW during the day to pull heat down from the ceiling back into the room.

    Of course, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, you’re going to want to set them to COUNTER-CLOCKWISE.  Wait a sec…Ok, please disregard that last sentence.

    6.  Unplug any appliances that have ‘stand-by’ electrical components such as clocks, digital indicators, etc. Plug them in only when you are going to use them. Do NOT leave your computer on ‘stand-by’ 24/7 – it is a massive electrical drain. And purchase solar-powered outside lighting that charges during the day and provides illumination at night. Turn all outside lights and porch lights OFF unless you are expecting food delivery or guests.

    Now I don’t know what kind of practical sense unplugging your clock makes, but this guy seems to know home energy.

    7.  If you have SOUTHERN FACING WINDOWS, open the blinds and permit sunlight to stream unimpeded into as many rooms as possible during the day. Keep the window shades up and the windows fully open to sunlight until the sun begins to set (usually after 4 p.m.). Then return any blinds or curtains or drapes to their position to retain warm air inside your home.

    The open windows may cause a slight alteration in lifestyle.  No more naked pilates.

    You get the idea.  There are obviously dozens of things you can do in order to consume fewer natural resources and save some money, but I just thought I’d share a few of the tips that could appeal to the lazy, yet good-intentioned segment of the population.  But don’t just take it from me, I have some old friends with infinite wisdom:

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    Help Yourself. Help The World. Then Brag About How You’re A Wonderful Person.

    Posted by Matt on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

    Last Monday, I received a pre-approved Credit Card offer, 2 offers for magazine subscriptions, a letter from my health insurer, and a ransom letter written in lamb’s blood.  But it was a good day because I didn’t get anything from Pottery Barn – the Devil’s home-furnishing store.  I’ve never even been to the Pottery Barn! Still, I wasn’t satisfied.

    Today, Gratuitous World stops spewing nonsense and stealing your soul for a couple minutes, to give you some helpful advice on how to remove yourself from mailing lists and junk mail.

    Here’s some plagarism:

    • Junk mail destroys 100 million trees a year — the equivalent of deforesting all of Rocky Mountain National Park every four months.
    • Largely due to deforestation, junk mail manufacturing creates as much greenhouse gas emissions annually as 3.7 million cars.
    • More than half of unsolicited mail is discarded unread or unopened; the response rate is less than 2%.
    • Junk mail creates four million tons of unnecessary waste per year.
    • Calculating the weight of the junk mail trash from EPA data, it works out to 13.4% of 1276 pounds per household; that’s 170 pounds of trash per household per year.
    • Don’t just think about the waste that junk mail produces; consider the energy required to produce the mail, and the emissions required to transport it to your home. And even if it gets recycled in the end, a great deal of energy is expended in the recycling process.

    Credit Card Applications

    Getting bent over by the credit card companies isn’t difficult.  But that doesn’t mean you have to read their love letters. Name and address are all that are necessary:

    Opt-Out Pre-Screen will ensure no pre-approved applications arrive in the mail. The online form is accepted without having to enter your Social Security Number. (Available to US residents only.) 

    I did the on-line, 5-year opt-out. It took 2 minutes.

    Virtually all credit card and insurance companies get your mailing and credit information from one of the three major national credit bureaus, who share their lists between one another. Pursuant to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (1997), consumers can call any one of the credit bureaus, and upon request can have their name removed from all three lists.

    • Equifax : PO Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374-0123 – Phone: (888) 567-8688
    • Experian: Target Marketing Services Division, 12606 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75243 – Phone: (800) 353-0809
    • TransUnion: 555 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL 60661 – Phone: (800) 680-7293

    Direct Marketing Association

    The Direct Marketing Association is apparently responsible for 75% of all national mailings that come to your home.   By calling or writing them and requesting that you be added to their Do Not Mail List, your name won’t be on the many mail order sales companies that use the D.M.A. to generate mailing lists.

    Valpak Coupons

    Visit Cox Target Media to remove your name.  Unless you really want that $5 off a $100+ oil change.


    Catalog Choice will remove you from many (if not most) catalog mailing lists. 

    Cut the cord, kids.

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    Gratuitous World Blog

      • College Football Players, Awaken…
        January 29, 2014

        [Former NCAA President Myles Brand:] They can’t be paid. [Q:] Why? [Brand:] Because they’re amateurs. [Q:] What makes them amateurs? [Brand:] Well, they can’t be paid. [Q:] Why not? [Brand:] Because they’re amateurs. [Q:] Who decided they are amateurs? [Brand:] We did. [Q:] Why? [Brand:] Because we don’t pay them. – Michael Rosenberg’s 2010 Sports Illustrated interview of former NCAA president Myles Brand Yesterday, quarterback Kain Colter led a group […]

      • GW: Favorite Albums Of 2013
        January 11, 2014

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        January 7, 2014

        (originally posted 2/10/10) then again (7/9/10) now one more time before retirement. for love. UPDATE: So it’s as hot as fuck out east because, you know, it’s July. Anyway, I’m just checking in because although You Know and I Know daily mid-Atlantic microtrends in weather do not offer any proof or disproof with regard to […]