Isn’t it marvelous to be outdoors lately? Summer is in full swing
already, even if the calendar says we have a week to go before the
kickoff, and that is just fine by most of us. With exceptions, of
course, such as the seasonal proliferation of pesky bugs. We hate gnats
in our faces, mosquitoes sucking our blood, ticks carrying the plague,
and nasty little uninvited guests spoiling the roses and the
strawberries. But we’re also not too happy about slathering our gardens
or our bodies with all those ominous-sounding techno-poisons.

If you’re worried about the effects of chemical pesticides on your
vegetables, pets, or children, try fighting fire with fire. Purchase
praying mantises, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects, plus various
nontoxic anti-bug preparations, at the Bug
. Eliminate grubs or aphids outside, get
rid of mice in the basement or ants in the kitchen, repel wasps and
mosquitoes on the deck, or combat any of an impressively long list of
other personae non gratae on your property. The site also carries
natural pet products such as herbal shampoos and flea repellents. You
shouldn’t miss its sweetly infatuated ladybug
, which has a
smorgasbord of ladybug-themed paraphernalia to offer, including a batch
of fifteen hundred live, decorative, aphid-eating, adult lady bird
beetles for $10. (Gosh, you know, you could really wreak havoc at the
office just by sending a co-worker … er … no … forget I said that.
It’d be too cruel to the ladybugs.)

Speak out against Iran’s persecution of Jews

Two months ago, 13 Jews — including teachers, a rabbi, and a shochet
— were arrested in Iran and accused of “world arrogance” and spying for
the “Zionist regime.” These arrests only became public knowledge several
days ago.

In 1997, Iran hanged two people who were convicted of spying for
Israel and the United States. The 13 Jews who recently arrested on
ridiculous charges of espionage could easily meet with the same fate. To
join in condemning the arrest of these Jews and demanding their
immediate release, add your name to Virtual’s online
petition, which will be sent to Iran’s
permanent representative to the United Nations.

Electric bill heating up?

Air conditioners can blast your monthly utility bills into the
stratosphere each summer — which, after the amount of dough you’ve had
to cough up for the AC itself (and let’s not even talk about the muscle
strain of getting it home), is just insult added to injury. Reduce your
power usage with the help of Energy Guide. It offers a plethora of
energy-saving tools and calculators designed to significantly cut your
energy costs, most of which you can gear to reckon with the average
needs of your area by entering a ZIP code. Better yet, you can actually
tailor them to your specific household needs — for instance, type the
number and types of light bulbs you’re using in your house into the
calculator and calculate your savings based on various suggested
substitutions. Once you quantify the dollars saved by a small adjustment
to your thermostat or a more economical selection of light bulbs for
your house, all those finger-wagging, environmentally correct
admonishments to conserve energy suddenly start making a whole new kind
of sense. Yes, they’re peddling energy-efficient products here, but
since this is a first-rate site packed with useful, substantive, and
wide-ranging information, I say let them prosper and more power to them.

Perpetuating mediocrity in the schools

The sad truth about teacher education programs is that most of them
view their role, and the primary role of the teachers they train, as
that of change agents whose mission is to work toward social justice and
equity rather than academic achievement. Worse, salaries in education
being what they are, it’s students of average to lower than average
intellect who are attracted to them rather than to more competitive
programs such as law school or first-year training in investment
banking. That damaging self-selection, of course, tends to perpetuate
the deeply anti-intellectual bent of teachers’ ed programs. Washington
Monthly analyzes the cycle of

in a worthwhile feature article.

The strangest music

One of the eeriest noises in the globe’s varied musical repertoire,
the Australian didgeridoo makes a sound I can only describe as totally
uncanny to the ordinary Western ear — or, at least, to my ear, the
ordinariness of which is perhaps a moot point. Rent Peter Weir’s
first-rate, deeply scary 1977 film The Last
some evening
to get an idea of the sort of disturbing strangeness I’m talking about.
At any rate, here is a
site devoted to this
deeply odd, fascinating 10,000-year-old instrument of the bush. It’ll
tell you how the thing functions, how to play it, how to make one, and
what it’s all about.

Here’s how weird it gets: The “circular breathing” technique used to
play the thing involves, basically, never having to stop to take a
breath, ever, because one has cultivated the art of inhaling and
exhaling at virtually the same time.

And it turns out the best, most authentic, eucalyptus-wood
didgeridoos rely on the assistance of termites for their manufacture.
You’ll be able to obtain an adequate starter instrument in a less
finicky style, though — either bamboo or one of the modern variations
in plastic, ceramic, fiberglass and so forth; a decent plastic
instrument can be had for around $40 by clicking
here. Another excellent didgeridoo
offers a ton of musical and cultural resources including a learners’
complete with sound files.

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