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February 2009

Freedom Gardens:

A social hub for gardeners of any stripe or interest, Freedom Gardens’ focus is squarely on encouraging less reliance on agribusinesses. The site has apparently just undergone a redesign, and many of the headers in the graphic atop the home page don’t actually go anywhere, but from perusing them, it’s clear Freedom Gardens has much to offer. Journals, projects, a forum, meetups, and specialty groups focusing on such subjects as food preservation, animals, composting, and saving seeds are just a few of the areas one can explore. I’ve never been much of a joiner, but I may need to make an exception for this site.

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Curious Expeditions:

A fascinating blog “devoted to unearthing and documenting the wondrous, the macabre and the obscure from around the globe”. Content includes natural marvels, and manmade art or amusements or technological curiosities. My attention was immediately captured by an entry on Castelul Peleş in Romania. The brief text and gorgeous photograph drew me in; fortunately, an extensive collection of photos on Flickr helped satisfy my curiosity. Another post, on the old-time surgical theater, brought back memories of similar historical sites I have seen (none as opulent as their feature, however).

Site overview: Crisp, understated WordPress design allows the focus to be squarely on the content. Fixed-width columns are wider than usual for WordPress, but still a little restrictive for those with widescreen monitors. Posts are typically fairly short, with generous links to related sites and usually, a photo or two. Anonymous commenting is allowed; RSS feeds are available for both posts and comments. If you enjoy intellectual pursuits, particularly of an offbeat nature, Curious Expeditions is likely to become a favorite browsing place.

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The Thomas Jefferson Hour:

My co-blogger Polka pointed me to this weekly podcast featuring humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson portraying Thomas Jefferson. In addition to a deep podcast list, all in MP3 format, one may browse numerous reading lists, a news archive, a blog by Mr. Jenkinson, or learn more about booking him for an event. This is a rich site of information bringing Thomas Jefferson to life in a variety of ways.

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The Complete Patient:

Journalist David Gumpert focuses on the business of health, with a skeptical eye focused on the FDA, USDA, and lower levels of regulators. Of much recent interest is the increased attacks on raw milk dairies, but even within that subject, the ideas brought up are wide-ranging. Gumpert and his readers are intelligent and passionate, and understand that freedom is a fundamental issue in their struggles against ignorant and overzealous enforcers.

Site overview: I am unsure of the blogging platform used, but it serves well at presenting the information. White background with shades of brown and blue create a pleasant atmosphere. One must register to post comments; anyone may read comments. Two feeds are available—RSS and Atom. Given current trends in government and food safety, each of us needs to stay alert and informed; The Complete Patient is an excellent means of accomplishing that.

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“VEC” stands for “vertical English characters”; the VEC site calls this clever writing technique “VEC calligraphy“, emphasizing the artistic possibilities inherent in it. In VEC writing, English characters are placed vertically, often with exaggerated features, so that the spelling of an English word takes on the appearance of an ancient Chinese character. The art can take on many forms, with recognition of the English word not necessary for artistic appreciation. While it does look intriguing and can be very pretty (or rather uninspired), VEC also seems tailor-made for adding some fun to writing, as with just a little effort it can become a fairly suitable but extremely low-level code.

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Web of Love:

As is the case with so many sites I find, I don’t recall how I came across this one—quite possibly a link to a story drew me in. Once there, I found much to keep me reading. The purpose of the Web of Love is to help each of us feel and share the love that can connect us and flow through us.

The site offers techniques and ideas for inspiration or personal growth, as well as news and stories. I browsed through most sections at least a little, but spent most of my time on the keys to life and the inspiring stories, most of which are brief. Each is a compelling testament to the profound power of being open and genuine, especially when it seems most trivial or challenging. I defy anyone to read more than two stories, such as The Gold Wrapping Paper or The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget and not feel moved.

Like most of us, I suspect, I have a hard time with this approach in some ways, despite not yet being disappointed when I have been able to act in accordance with it. It seems simplistic, overly simplistic at times ... yet it can be downright hard to see past one’s own hurt, or need, or more petty whims; it feels less fun sometimes to ignore a temptation to be cynical or sarcastic; and sometimes history makes it very difficult to express genuine concern to someone without it being taken as signaling more. Maybe there are some individuals truly beyond reach—some I’ve met in the pro-freedom movement seemed determined to be unlovable, at any rate—but I think much of that is due to an overblown valuation of self-reliance coupled with our increasingly shallow culture.

Even with my challenges, I have found that remembering the importance of love has improved my interactions with my children. That in turn has helped them overcome those baser tendencies and be more loving to another. That may be all the scope my actions ever have, but if so, it will be worthwhile. I will be sharing some stories with them too.

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