iOS10 Includes Automatic Organ Donor Registration

Just a note to let everyone know that, with today’s iOS10 release, iPhone users can now legally register as an organ, eye and tissue donor right on their phone. Click on the Medical ID tab within the Health app. (App also lets you share your decision with family and friends via social media, which is probably a good idea.)

More info at

PS – For those who are interested, the story of my kidney donation to an animal rescuer. (One of the best things I’ve ever done, btw.)

Youth Refugee Adventure – Highland Presbyterian Louisville

Hey Balloon Juice-ers (sounds like a new diet fad). I am sorry for the long absence. I am apparently not able to manage too big of an audience. It’s like some kind of perverse introversion for the already semi-anonymous blogger. 2016 has been a whirlwind.  My family and I have moved out of the Philadelphia area to Louisville, Kentucky. It was a combination of my departed friend, a mid-life crisis and some lifestyle choices that favored family. It’s almost the end of a 5 month journey. As much as I love my 9.5 lb. Sir Kitty Poop-a-lot, we can no longer share a bathroom.

We are two and a half months into our life in Kentucky. It’s been wonderful. I have found mom’s with whom to run, more time to devote to writing and a network of close friends and family. This past weekend, I was invited to my friend’s church for a workshop called Youth Refugee Adventure. I attended given my own “adventures”.

The program started at 3pm in the Highland Presbyterian Fellowship hall. We were instructed to write our names on a slip of paper. Children and teens were instructed to write their names on different colored slips of paper.  Afterwards, we went to a different station write down on index one precious item we would take with us if we were forced to flee our homelands.

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Sunday Night Open Thread


A hill in Central Florida. Yep, a hill!

The Pats-Cards game is getting interesting. What is up with the Brady understudy huffing smelling salts on the sidelines? Weird. Seems to be working, though.

I’m planning a river cruise on a borrowed houseboat, trying to figure out what to bring, moorings, optimal stargazing, etc., which is a pleasant diversion. Damn, do I need a vacation.

What are you up to? Open thread!

Alice Sebold on Remembering the Dead

One of the best things I’ve ever read, from Alice “The Lovely Bones” Sebold:

AND where do the dead go after they have sucked down their last breaths and drowned in the rafters of their homes? After they have died in the aftermath of fiery explosion? Do they gather, as some believe, together, and ascend to an otherworldly level; or do they remain, watching; or disappear altogether? Do they wait to hear the stories we will tell?

The truth is, none of us knows what the dead do. But on earth, where we remain, the living become the keepers of their memory. This is an awesome and overwhelming responsibility. And it is simple: we must not forget them….

Do the dead wish you to suffer? Do they want you to watch CNN and Fox News for days on end? Do they want your guilt or pity? All of these things are like jewels to them. In other words — valueless where they have gone.

Instead, a woman wants her husband not to forget her but to go on and live. A child longs for a lost mother’s arms again. A man grows peaceful when his partner finds new love. Some of the dead, I imagine, get enraged at these things. They are dead after all. They get to do and feel — I hope — what they want to….

Look up from this newspaper you are reading, ignore the morning traffic you may find yourself in tomorrow, turn off the television one day this week and watch the moon. Think of the dead of 9/11 and of Hurricane Katrina. Stay there a moment. Remember them.

Today’s a day for remembering; I wish everyone peace.

When Should You Retire Your Car?

So we lost a gamble, I think. We’ve been driving a 2002 Odyssey. It’s a boat but I have to say the capacity has come in useful a lot, including during my move to Kzoo and lots of long road trips.

Last spring we paid for $2,300 for misc. and sundry repairs, including engine tuneup, new brake shoes and pads, new tires, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember.

This week we wound up paying another $900 for a new battery and starter and some other stuff.

(Yeah, our repair guy is pricey. But he’s utterly reliable and does great work. No, he’s not the dealer.)

We’ve decided that we’re not going to pay for the upcoming transmission flush? (every 100,000 miles) and we’re also not going to wait for the transmission to fail. So, come the spring we will get a new car. Clearly, we took a gamble on the car lasting another year or two, and clearly – having paid $3,200 in the last year of its life – we lost that gamble.

So questions:

1) At what point should you give up on your aging car, esp. if it’s your only car? Note: I’m grateful it didn’t break down during one of the long trips – I think that’s one of the things we paid the premium for – although I did get cheated out of a pizza when the starter broke this week. :-(

2) What car should we replace it with? This time we want a smaller car but still with as much cargo room as possible. Our repair guy says Suburus are okay but overpriced on the used market. He likes the Pontiac Vibe (same as Toyota Matrix), which is a hatchback. It looks great but might be a tad too small for us.

Thanks for your input!

Standing Rock Sioux Protest

Per reader request, here’s some info on the Standing Rock Sioux protest – apparently the biggest Native American protest in decades – and a thread to discuss it.

Bill McKibben offers a good backgrounder in The New Yorker:

This week, thousands of Native Americans, from more than a hundred tribes, have camped out on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, which straddles the border between the Dakotas, along the Missouri River. What began as a slow trickle of people a month ago is now an increasingly angry flood. They’re there to protest plans for a proposed oil pipeline that they say would contaminate the reservation’s water; in fact, they’re calling themselves protectors, not protesters.

Their foe, most directly, is the federal government, in particular the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has approved a path for the pipeline across the Missouri under a “fast track” option called Permit 12. That’s one reason the Dakota Access Pipeline, as it’s known, hasn’t received the attention that, say, the Keystone XL Pipeline did, even though the pipe is about the same length. Originally, the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri near Bismarck, but authorities worried that an oil spill there would have wrecked the state capital’s drinking water. So they moved the crossing to half a mile from the reservation, across land that was taken from the tribe in 1958, without their consent. The tribe says the government hasn’t done the required consultation with them—if it had, it would have learned that building the pipeline there would require digging up sacred spots and old burial grounds.

One protester told Democracy Now – which has been reporting from onsite for several days – that the construction company actually deliberately targeted a burial ground “miles away from where any construction was happening,” and stealthily and spitefully bulldozed it over the holiday weekend.

It’s also been reported–but not nearly widely enough, in my view–that the private security company hired by Energy Transfer Partners attacked the protesters not just with pepper spray, but with dogs, recalling for many the long sordid history of colonizers from Columbus onward doing the same. Many are wondering how these kinds of attacks can be legal, and why the Federal government isn’t stepping in.

Lots of info out there – what is everyone else hearing? BTW, Walter Kirn’s twitter feed from onsite is very good , and he’s reporting that the media is finally starting to show up.

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Hydroponics As Fashion Accent

Not sure it’s liable to make a serious dent in anyone’s food budget, but I can totally imagine hydroponic plants as air fresheners/CO2 filters. From the Washington Post:

The International Space Station and your 500-square-foot studio have more in common than you might think: Both environments are a great place to experiment with hydroponics…

Gene Giacomelli, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at the University of Arizona and director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, said that for those interested in commercial agriculture, incorporating hydroponics into large-scale production seems the way of the future. But is it possible to create a hydroponic system at home?

Absolutely, Giacomelli said.

“If you understand the fundamentals, what the plants need, and you have some practical use of tools, it can be just a kiddie pool filled with water and a floating piece of Styrofoam board with holes cut in it,” he said.

There are six kinds of hydroponic systems, the most basic of which is called a deep-water culture. This is what Giacomelli is referring to. It’s essentially a container of nutrient-filled water, with plants floating on top of it. You’ll need an air pump to introduce oxygen into the water, but it can be simply made with Ikea storage bins, a foam cooler, a bucket or any other container, as long as it sits in a place that gets a lot of light…

… But who wants a bunch of buckets or foam coolers in their apartment? Michael Zick Doherty, a permaculture designer from California, said that once you’ve got the basics down, it’s easy to transform a hydroponic system into something that adds to your home decor.

He designs hydroponic systems by taking into account the surrounding environment, whatever it may be: architecture, cabinet color, kitchen tiles. He’s a fan of using innovative materials: On a research residency in Singapore, he experimented with systems made of clay.

“I think hydroponics has gotten a pretty negative image because they aren’t aesthetically pleasing a lot of the time,” he said. “I think it’s easy to take that next step. Even pipes: Something as simple as making a wood enclosure around them would totally change the feel of them. Find ways to obscure the more mechanical parts.”…

Beautiful doesn’t have to be expensive. Britta Riley is the founder of a social enterprise called Windowfarms, and its first designs used water bottles to create a similar window system. She started an open-source website, on hiatus for this summer, so designers all over the world could share their designs…

Anybody here had any experience with hydroponics?

Apart from indoor water gardening, what’s going on in your garden(s) this week?