Wednesday, October 15, 2008

[Blog Action Day] The American Spaghetti Crisis: Part 2 (Our Nation's Starving Students)

I touched on this issue before in a previous article about out of control food prices and how it is affecting the poor of this country, but one group that I did not take into consideration when I wrote it, was college students.

This is why I felt the need to write a Part 2. (Blog Action Day was the reason why I delayed publishing it till today.)

Due to the rise in student poverty, you may now add them to both the group of kids sufferring from malnutrition, unable to concentrate in school due to their growling stomachs, and also to the group that is struggling with unemployment and the lack of available jobs.

College students are a group of people that are traditionally strapped for cash and live on tight budgets, with ramen being a staple of many of their diets. (It's not just a's real!)

It is difficult to make ends meet when you have to go to school all day, spend a substantial amount of time studying, and make sure you get enough rest in order to perform well in school the next day.

It doesn't leave that much free time for employment, and if students are employed, it's usually only part time for minimum wage. And with many businesses currently feeling the crunch and cutting their workforce, those jobs are becoming more scarce and the competition for them rising.

In many communities, students are competing with low income families that have kids to feed, for those fewer available low paying jobs. And during the summer, they may even be competing with their temporarily unemployed teachers, who also need more money to make ends meet and survive through the summer, till they return to work again in September.

Forget the stereotypes of the typical college student wasting all their money on booze and partying it up all the time. It just isn't true, any more (if it ever even was). The vast majority are working themselves to death and rarely have the time, money, or energy for booze and parties.

And forget the stereotypes of students being able to just hit mom & dad up for more cash. Most parents have set a strict budget for their kids in college, if they are even willing or able to give them any help at all with personal expenses. And the parents that are willing to help, are feeling the squeeze themselves, with the rising food and gasoline prices eating into their extra cash they might normally have and be willing to contribute to support their children away at college.

The truth is, most students are more or less on their own for providing for their personal needs above and beyond their tuition, books, and housing; with many living well below the poverty line, and drowning in debt. The rising cost of fuel is eating away at whatever extra cash they may have on hand to feed themselves. The cost of gasoline is also affecting their ability to hold a job and earn anything at all, to cover their cost of living.

And because their parents can still claim most of them as dependants, statistics are based upon the income of the parents and not the actual cash the students have available at their disposal, so most of these poverty stricken young adults are not even included in the statistics that refer to students living below the poverty line. They are this nation's hidden poor.

The rise in food prices isn't helping things, and are driving students to drain the already scarce supplies of the local food pantries that are already struggling to keep up with the burden of demands from poor and out of work families, while donations dwindle, as the middle class cuts back on "unnecessary" spending.

This is adversely affecting the already poor, the ones that were relying on food pantries long before the students started showing up. There is only so much food available, and it's not enough to go around. The rising number of students in need, is making the problem much worse.

The current economic crisis is going to seriously aggravate the problem further this winter, and it is likely that contributions will dip even lower, and need will increase even more, as the unemployment rate rises even higher.

Your local food pantry will need your help, more than ever, during this time of economic crisis. If you can spare anything at all, please consider making regular donations of food to the one closest to you. A little bit can go a long way and help a lot of people get by this winter, and beyond.

These are the kinds of items they would always be in need of:

  • spaghetti and other pasta products
  • spaghetti sauce (preferably with vegetables or meat)
  • canned meats (like tuna or chicken)
  • shelf stable milk that doesn't need refridgeration (something like Parmalat)
  • canned and dried beans
  • peanut butter & jelly
  • hot &cold cereals
  • pancake mix & syrup (get the "complete" kind that doesn't require eggs)
  • rice
  • canned fruits and vegetables
  • soups and stews (stuff with lots of meat & vegetables)

Just think healthy & nutritious, and don't give anything that you wouldn't eat. This is not an invitation to clean out your pantry of all your unwanted crap. They don't want your dust covered cans of gourmet liver paté and jars of pickled baby corn, that neither you nor your dog would eat.

If you are giving anything that requires something else to make it a complete meal, be sure to buy the other item to go with it, such as is the case with stuff like pasta & sauce, pancake mix & syrup, peanut butter & jelly, and cereal & milk.

When in doubt, contact your local food pantry and ask what they need most, or if they are willing to accept an item you may want to provide, before you make your purchase.

Probably about the easiest way you could do this, is to just pick up at least one extra non-perishable meal each week, when you do your shopping for your family. Then drop off the food you bought at your local pantry, on your way home.

If you are having trouble locating a local food pantry near your home, pick up your phone and call churches in your neighborhood. Many of them serve their community by running a food pantry.

Most do not require the people they serve to be a member of their church or even hold any religious beliefs, at all. And they don't use it as an opportunity to preach their flavor of religion to the people they serve, either. So if you are an athiest/agnostic, this shouldn't be an issue for you. Don't let it stand in the way. (Who cares why churches help, as long as they help and do it fairly.)

Read More:
American Spaghetti Crisis: Part 1
Other articles, news, and information resources

Thank you, Chris Lang, for reminding me that I forgot the college students.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Add a "Share This in Google Reader" Button to Your Blogger Posts

Wouldn't it be great if you could add a button to every post that would make it easy for your visitors to share your posts with their friends in Google Reader, even if they don't subscribe to your feed?

The following is instructions to do just that, for Blogger layout based blogs. (Blogger Classic, Wordpress, and basic static HTML page instructions will be posted soon.)

This will require you to edit the HTML of your template. While I have tried to make this as easy as possible, those that don't feel comfortable with this, should not try it.

The button will only show on post pages and not the main page of your blog. It's not wise to do this any other way, as the URL that will be supplied in Google Reader will be the URL of the page in which your button is clicked. If it is on the main page, the post may not be there when someone reads the entry in someone's shared items, and it is likely not to win you any new loyal readers, so use this only on post pages.

I have also added some comments in the code that will make it much easier for you to add addional buttons in the future, and have them appear on all pages or just post pages.

1. On your Blogger Dashboard, click the Layout link for the blog you want to add the button to.

2. At the top of the Layout page, click the link for Edit HTML.

3. Where it says "Backup/Restore Template", click the link that says "Download Full Template" and save the .xml file to your hard drive. This file will help you restore your template, in case anything goes wrong.

4. In the "Edit Template" section, check the box at the top right that says "Expand Widget Templates".

5. Use your browser's search function to find this line:

<div class='post-footer'>

6. Find the 2 lines in your template that look like this:

<div class='post-footer'>
<p class='post-footer-line post-footer-line-1'>

7. Copy and paste the following code between those 2 lines:

<!-- Footer Button Codes BEGIN -->
<p><span id='footer-buttons'>
<!-- things placed after this line will show on all pages -->

<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == &quot;item&quot;'>
<!-- things placed after this line will only show on post pages -->

<!-- Google Reader Share Item Button BEGIN -->
<a href='javascript:var%20b=document.body;var%20GR________bookmarklet_domain=&quot;;;if(b&amp;&amp;!document.xmlVersion){void(z=document.createElement(&quot;script&quot;));void(z.src=&quot;;);void(b.appendChild(z));}else{}'>
<img alt='Share this in Google Reader' border='0' src=''/></a>
<!-- Google Reader Share Item Button END -->
<!-- Do Not Paste Any Code Below This Line -->
<!-- Footer Button Codes END -->

8. Click the button at the bottom of the page that says "Save Template".

If you get any red errors, leave a comment stating the specific error message, and I will try to help you out. If you get any errors beginning with "bX-", just try again tomorrow. Sometimes Blogger has issues with itself and waiting a bit can resolve them.

9. Look at your blog. If you have done this correctly, the button should appear on post pages only, and not the main page. Test the button by clicking it on a post and sharing one of your posts in Google Reader.

10. If you would like to add other buttons to the footer of your posts, the comments in the code will help you decide where to put your button codes. One place will show on all pages, and the other will only show on post pages.

11. If you would like a larger button than the one that shows when you use this code, find the word "small" in the file name of the image URL used, and replace it with "large".

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Censorship Is Still Ringing In My Ears

We are all familiar with the type of censorship that occurs on the radio with songs containing swear words being bleeped or blanked out. Plenty of artists have been subjected to this, and it seemed that no artist or swear word was immune to this type of censorship in America...except one.

Ever since the release of "The Dark Side of the Moon" back in 1973, Pink Floyd has been oddly immune to the same type of censorship that has victimized every other artist.

In their song "Money", there is a line that goes like this:

Money, its a hit.
Dont give me that do goody good bullshit.

Never, since the 70's, when I first heard the song on the radio on 95.5 WPLJ New York (back when they had an album rock format), have I ever heard that song censored. I have heard it a million times over the years and heard "bullshit" in it, clear as day, each and every time.

The Almighty Pink Floyd, was allowed to openly say what other artists could not.

I do not know why...maybe it was out of respect. Maybe it was just overlooked (doubtful), but they were allowed to swear as much as they wanted.

Even the song "Pigs", which contained the following lyric, was never censored:
Bus stop rat bag, ha ha, charade you are.
You fucked up old hag, ha ha, charade you are.

Yesterday afternoon that all changed.

For the first time in my life, I heard "bullshit" blanked out in "Money" on 101.9 WRXP New York. That station did what no radio station ever dared to do before. They censored Pink Floyd!

Shameful! Shameful! Shameful!

They not only totally ruined my listening pleasure, they ruined my day, as well. This has been bothering me for the last 10 hours. How dare they censor a song that has always been allowed to stand in it's entire artistic majesty, on the public airwaves, for well over 30 years!

I am still in shock...stunned.

They are an awesomely fantastic radio station (you can listen to their stream and check them out for yourself), BUT...this incident is going to linger with me, bugging the hell out of me, for a long time.

How dare they!