30 August 2009

Exploring the question on how to choose an Accessible CMS

So, a classmate recently posed some questions about Drupal vs. Sharepoint, so I did some searching.

Here is my very roughly put together group of links to clarify the decision making process in choosing a Content Management System in light of accessibility considerations:

From a few searches on how Drupal and Sharepoint differ/are similar, I did find:

Other open-source content managers, besides Drupal, include:
However, some CMSs have a slight edge over the rest of the competition because of the usability of the software. Some are just easier to install, use and extend, thanks to some thoughtful planning by the lead developers. Here are 10 of the most usable CMSs on the web to use in your next project.

Drupal, and other "open source" Content Management Systems (CMS) are really free (as are all "open source" / "open access" applications in general), however, "For many webmasters, the choice between open source or commercial hinges largely on cost but you should know that whereas open source is invariably free to procure and to install, you may come up against costs on the backend should you run into problems. Top quality support is not always available right when you need it."(http://www.blogtrepreneur.com/2009/08/26/which-web-content-management-system-is-right-for-you/)

But with so many choices, how do you choose? Consider:
Wow, that was fun! I learned a lot.

12 April 2009

Have you received/read something like this: "Stop HR875/S425 US Congress' attempt to Illegalize Organic Farming!" ?

The Message
Stop HR875/S425 US Congress' attempt to Illegalize Organic Farming!
Stop Congress from taking away our rights to grow organic food!

Right to nutrition and health
Right to freedom
Right to privacy
Environment - Service and Other
HR 875 and S 425 are the pieces of legislation that would criminalize organic farming, even having a garden in your back yard! 

PLEASE contact your representitives and Senators about this! 

We can NOT allow this to happen to food! 

There will no longer be ORGANIC food... they will be required to spray pesticides and insectisides on the "organic" food... hence, making it no longer organic 



I Love to Play Researcher!
I'm a blog junkie, and I've been pondering this one for a couple of weeks now since I've been reading about it via a lot of blog posts.  (There are even some FB groups addressing this issue, naturally... see http://www.facebook.com/s.php?init=q&q=HR875&ref=ts&sid=b798156ac07435b67c26450e8f1ce1f9)

My first instinct is to check to see what hype might be involved, since the language of posts related to HR 875 & S 425 seem somewhat alarmist.  

Also, the language seems to fly in the face of what I presume would be the values of President Obama (http://organicgardening.about.com/b/2009/04/01/big-ag-white-house-organic-garden-makes-us-shudder.htm & http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/29/714315/-Big-Ag-Writes-Michelle-Opposing-WH-Organic-Garden & http://my.kitchengardeners.org/forum/topics/hr-875-and-white-house-gardens), as well as policies and programs that have been historically promoted by the USDA via the NRCS and FSA (I have recently been working as an Admin Asst for the St Joe Cty Soil & Water Conservation District.  We are a partner with/share an office with the NRCS, and we kind of share an office with the FSA: http://stjoseph.iaswcd.org/).  The majority of the work that NRCS and FSA do seems to revolve around the latest Farm Bill, which is actually quite supportive or organic farming (I'm sure I can dig up some anti-Farm Bill points of view...I'll save this for a later date!  I love me some research!) (RE: Farm Bill and Organic Ag, see for instance: http://www.mosesorganic.org/attachments/broadcaster/other16.6costshare.html ; http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/20081120/nf4 ; http://www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/eqiphomepage.html)

Back to the Possible Hype in Posts Like "Stop HR875/S425 US Congress' attempt to Illegalize Organic Farming!"
Snopes.com is one tool for peeling back the fact from the hype, and while there are legitimate concerns as far as always keeping the legislators in check by making your voice heard, there seems to be a viral alarmism at play, as well .  Still, some say Snopes can be a bit biased (for instance, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2039929/posts), so another good source is TruthorFiction.com.  I also sifted thru Google results to find discussions where similar fact-checking measures seemed to be occuring:

Some Links that Appear to "Check the Facts"

But the Language of HR 875 & S 425 is Very Vague... In the Wrong Hands... Well You Know...
Besides, you can keep digging, and draw further conclusions from the checking of the facts and read in between the lines and come to conclusions like: http://blog.puppetgov.com/2009/03/14/a-solemn-walk-through-hr-875/

So, writing your legislators to keep them in check is always a good idea!  

(You could probably find something to write to a legislator about every day, but would that end up in your FBI file? ... http://www.getmyfbifile.com/)

Oh, and What About H 759 H 814?
Fact Check: What Might HR 875 Mean for Small Farms?

Wednesday April 1, 2009

There's still a lot of confusion swirling around HR 875, the food safety bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives. First of all, note that: the bill was introduced. It hasn't even hit the floor yet, and it's unclear when or if it will actually hit the floor for consideration. It's in committee. Secondly, the rumor that it will "outlaw organic farming" just isn't supported by anything that's actually in the bill currently.

But, FactCheck.org highlights one serious concern for any small-scale farmer considering selling food for public consumption. Specifically, "there's always a worry that government regulation of food production will adversely affect small farms, which can't absorb the possible costs of abiding by regulation as easily as big food producers can." That's the big-deal part of HR 875 for small farms. It would create a Food Safety Administration and establish rules and regulations for producing food for public sale, and small- and micro-scale farming operations -- not a hobby farm or homestead, but a small farmer trying to sell at the farmer's market or local food co-op or even "bigger" small farms -- might not survive the financial impact of those requirements.

Food and Water Watch points out that HR 759 is actually a much scarier bill than HR 875, and urges folks to focus on all the related bills currently introduced that could potentially affect small-scale agriculture. Their take on the situation is this:

There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture – the largest industrialized operations. That’s why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness. And the work doesn’t stop there – if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can’t afford to ignore. But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.

So, what's a small farmer to do? Exactly what Food And Water Watch suggests. Contact your local representative in Congress and make your views known now! We need food safety legislation, but we need good legislation that will protect our local food supply and our small farmers.

Also regarding HR 759 (and touching on HR875 or S425), http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/foodsafety/background-on-h-r-875 states:

Background on H.R. 875
The dilemma of how to regulate food safety in a way that prevents problems caused by industrialized agriculture but doesn’t wipe out small diversified farms is not new and is not easily solved.  And as almost constant food safety problems reveals the dirty truth about the way much of our food is produced, processed, and distributed, it’s a dilemma we need to have serious discussion about.

Most consumers never thought they had to worry about peanut butter and this latest food safety scandal has captured public attention for good reason – a CEO who knowingly shipped contaminated food, a plant with holes in the roof and serious pest problems, and years of state and federal regulators failing to intervene. 

It’s no surprise that Congress is under pressure to act and multiple food safety bills have been introduced.

Two of the bills are about traceability for food (S.425 and H.R. 814).  These present real issues for small producers who could be forced to bear the cost of expensive tracking technology and recordkeeping. 

The other bills address what FDA can do to regulate food.

A lot of attention has been focused on a bill introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (H.R. 875), the Food Safety Modernization Act.  And a lot of what is being said about the bill is misleading. 

Here are a few things that H.R. 875 DOES do:

  • It addresses the most critical flaw in the structure of FDA by splitting it into 2 new agencies –one devoted to food safety and the other devoted to drugs and medical devices.
  • It increases inspection of food processing plants, basing the frequency of inspection on the risk of the product being produced – but it does NOT make plants pay any registration fees or user fees.
  • It does extend food safety agency authority to food production on farms, requiring farms to write a food safety plan and consider the critical points on that farm where food safety problems are likely to occur.
  • It requires imported food to meet the same standards as food produced in the U.S.

And just as importantly, here are a few things that H.R. 875 does NOT do:

  • It does not cover foods regulated by the USDA (beef, pork, poultry, lamb, catfish.)
  • It does not establish a mandatory animal identification system.
  • It does not regulate backyard gardens.
  • It does not regulate seed.
  • It does not call for new regulations for farmers markets or direct marketing arrangements. 
  • It does not apply to food that does not enter interstate commerce (food that is sold across state lines).
  • It does not mandate any specific type of traceability for FDA-regulated foods (the bill does instruct a new food safety agency to improve traceability of foods, but specifically says that recordkeeping can be done electronically or on paper).

Several of the things not found in the DeLauro can be found in other bills – like H.R. 814, the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere Act, which calls for a mandatory animal identification system, or H.R. 759, the Food And Drug Administration Globalization Act, which overhauls the entire structure of FDA.  H.R. 759 is more likely to move through Congress than H.R. 875.   And H.R. 759 contains several provisions that could cause problems for small farms and food processors:

It extends traceability recordkeeping requirements that currently apply only to food processors to farms and restaurants – and requires that recordkeeping be done electronically.

It calls for standard lot numbers to be used in food production.

It requires food processing plants to pay a registration fee to FDA to fund the agency’s inspection efforts.

It instructs FDA to establish production standards for fruits and vegetables and to establish Good Agricultural Practices for produce.

There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture – the largest industrialized operations.  That’s why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness.  And the work doesn’t stop there – if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can’t afford to ignore.

But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.

The Value of Public Discourse and an Impassioned and Informed Citizenry
As is likely the case a lot of the time, the language in all 4 of these bills is VAGUE, which leads to understandable alarmism and speculation.  

Most notably, it leads to:
  • DISCOURSE!!!!!  
  • Civic conversations!!!! 
  • Involved citizens!!!!!  
For instance: 

So, Who are My Legislators Anyhow?

HR 814, S. 425, HR 759 and HR 875

20 February 2009

Intensive Gardening...

Spring has been teasing us lately with a bit more sunshine and some pleasant days. I really want to grow something this year, and guess I will begin planning by beginning my research at http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/envirohort/426-335/426-335.html ...

I'm especially intrigued with the idea of vertical gardening.


19 January 2009

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day...I'm thinking of you Jacqueline Smith

Have you ever been to Memphis?
Have you visited the National Civil Rights Museum while you were there?
If not, did you know that the National Civil Rights Museum is located at the motel
where Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968 while he
was in Memphis to help organize a strike by sanitation workers?
The name of the motel was the Lorraine... 

When Dr. King was assassinated, one of the tenants of the Lorraine, 
Jacqueline Smith, 
was so deeply affected by that day's events that
has reflected that impact.

When the Lorraine was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum, 
all of the tenants that were living there were evicted.  

"The Lorraine Motel remained open following King's assassination 
until it was foreclosed in 1982. 
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation purchased the property 
at auction in December of that year. In 1987 construction of the museum started, 
opening its doors to visitors on September 28, 1991.
The exhibits of the museum tell the story of the struggle for 
African American civil rights from the arrival of the first Africans 
in the British colonies in 1619 to the assassination of King in 1968."

Ms. Smith and any other remaining tenants were served with an eviction order 
on Jan. 11, 1988 when the Lorraine was closed by Tennessee state officials 
directing the museum project. 
Ms. Smith ignored a February 8th deadline to move out.

On March 3, 1988, the day Ms. Smith was removed from her home, 
the AP reported that, "Before the deputies arrived, 
Miss Smith talked to reporters and other spectators through an 
eight-foot chain link fence that was put up around the site Jan. 11. 
'My family is here [in Memphis] and I have a home, but that's not what I want,' she said. 
'If I can't live at The Lorraine, I'll camp out on the sidewalk out front.'" 

Photo Source: Flickr User beastandbean
Camped out across from the museum, Ms. Smith calls the it the “Civil Wrong Museum” 
and urges tourists not to enter.  Ms. Smith's main claim is that MLK would not want a museum like this and 
that  the motel should have been converted into low-income housing rather than made into a museum for middle-class tourists. 

And so she did.  And so she has.
Visit this dedicated woman's website at: http://www.fulfillthedream.net/

For more information, and a variety of opinions on Jacqueline Smith, visit:

Nos. 10, 9, and 8 are especially powerful.

A few years ago I was in Memphis
visiting a friend, coincidentally on Martin Luther King Day.
I can't really put it into words but
there is a palpable feeling or mood or something
that was over the city that day.

The next year when I visited my friend in
Memphis, we did go to the
National Civil Rights Museum, but on that day
Ms. Smith was not camped across the street
(she does take a few days off here and there)

I get the real need for places like this to exist,
but I get the argument that there could have been
an alternative location versus evicting
people from their homes.

As is every issue that goes with the issue of
civil rights, there is so much
grey to consider...

04 January 2009


A big thank you to Ellie and her mommy and daddy for sending me NOT ONE, but THREE pairs of handmade fleece socks that were made by her mommy's friend. They are so warm and very comfortable.
The pictures I posted here are from two different sellers on Etsy that you can visit to buy yourself a pair, or two, or three, or...

Take a peek for yourself...

Foxy Fleece



Here are even more shop from Etsy where you can buy fleece socks.

20 December 2008

1984 at the Notre Dame DeBartolo

Every war when it comes, or before it
comes, is represented not as a war but as
an act of self-defense against a homicidal
~ George Orwell

I'm so there for the opening night performance on January 22nd...  This version of Orwell's 1984 is directed by Mr. Susan Sarandon... that is, Tim Robbins... Apparently, the play will be updated to relate more with current day events, as if Orwell's version was not timeless enough.   

Playwright, Michael Gene Sullivan, who adapted 1984 writes that:

About seventy years ago, with America in the grip of poverty and starvation, threatened with belligerent militarism from overseas, and a growing right - left animosity at home, a new American President stepped up to the mic and told the nation "There is nothing to fear but Fear itself."

Given the situation being afraid seemed like a reasonable response, but that President knew fear could paralyze a country, and the only ones who benefitted from ongoing, blinding fear were those who spread that fear.

And that is still true today. In the new millennium, with a crumbling infrastructure, a startling and growing gap between the rich and everyone else, governmental cronyism, corporate looting, and privatization of public wealth, there is a need to distract the citizens from corruption at the top. Our country has been attacked before, but never have we been so blinded by fear. Now we are led to believe we all under constant threat from terrorists, foreigners, strangers, the different, the guy at the Seven Eleven, the black kid on the corner!  Every suicide bombing, Osama Bin Gangsta, Radical abusive nanny Environmentalist is out to get you, so please don't notice that the Nation your parents built is being stolen in front of your eyes, and the rights won with a hundred years of blood are being taken. Doubt is treason, and Fear will distract you, so the message has become "Be afraid - be very afraid."

And at the center of this tornado of fearful despair sits a calm, assured - who?

"Citizens of Oceania! Together we will crush our enemies, and our long road to victory will be over!" But until then do not ask questions - the less you know the better. And in a nation at war certain rights must be curtailed to preserve Liberty. Oh, and keep shopping.

Or, as Big Brother says, Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace.

Egads.  I've been a bit sentimental lately, but, wow, I get a heart flutter and a bit near-teary reading these words.  In a goodish way.  Before Election Day 2008, this would have been much more bittersweet!

15 December 2008

Dream Vacation -- Palau, Micronesia

This photo by Eric H. Cheng is a beautiful shot of one of about 70 lakes in the Pacific Island of Palau.  The jellyfish in the photo are decendents of spotted jellyfish.  The lake in this photo is commonly referred to as Jellyfish Lake... The other similar lakes in Palau are protected from people interfering with their natural ecosystems.

Since the jellyfish have no predators and they dine on algae, very small crustaceans and plankton, the stinging cells are so small that people can very comfortably and painlessly swim and dive with them.  Jellyfish Lake is composed of 12 acres of seawater that is supplied through fissures in Palau's porous limestone foundation.  Other than the fissures, Jellyfish Lake is isolated from the ocean.  Within these mere 12-acres lives 20 MILLION jellies!  

According to the National Wildlife Foundation website, "Palau’s first marine lake formed just 12,000 to 15,000 years ago after the last ice age ended and sea levels rose. Palau’s rock islands were limestone peaks riddled with erosion-carved channels, fissures and depressions. Seawater seeping through the limestone transformed the largest depressions into marine lakes and swept in the larvae of spotted jellyfish and other sea creatures. In a mere moment of evolutionary time, the landlocked jellyfish radiated into five different subspecies, each attuned to its own isolated “island” of seawater. The jellies in the deepest lakes, which filled first and are therefore the oldest, diverged the most from their lagoon-living ancestor."

I am very fascinated with the idea of one day swimming with the jellyfish of Jellyfish Lake. I've seen video footage of others doing so, and it is so surreal on a television screen--I imagine that doing it in person would be beyond words.

Check out the YouTube video below to get a better idea of the otherworldliness that is Jellyfish Lake... and BONUS... jam to a little Tears for Fears ala "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."