Thursday, July 31, 2008

Enjoy Boston Every Day of the Week (On the Cheap!)

In Boston, there are many options for enjoying the city without spending too much money. Here are a few snapshots!


Today, the section of Memorial Drive between Western Ave and JFK Street is closed for people to bike, walk and play games along the Charles River. Harvard square is a short walk away and you could look at the Harvard Bookstore and the Harvard COOP for a great selection of books. I take note of the books currently being recommended, and then order them via Interlibrary Loan.
Memorial Drive: 11am-7pm, every Sunday from June-Mid-November
Price: Free


The Sculpture part at DeCordova Museum is free on Mondays, when the museum itself is closed. Over 35 acres with about 75 artworks scattered on the grounds. A great place to take pictures, go for a walk, enjoy artwork or just relax.

When: Monday's, dawn to dusk
Where: DeCordova is located in Lincoln, MA, about 30 minutes drive from Boston.
Cost: Transportation to and from the museum.


Let's make Tuesday a walking day. Boston Public Library in Copley Square is one of the most beautiful Boston landmarks. Inside, you can enjoy the fountain in the courtyard area, walk on the marble staircase and check out murals painted by Singer Sargent, the most successful American painter of the early twentieth century.
There are plenty of events held at the library, so you could plan your trip around something special, or just be spontaneous.
Nearby the BPL is a Trader Joe's, where you could get a few snacks and walk over to the Boston Common, via Copley square.
A Day Downtown: Business hours at the BPL are 9-9, Mon-Thurs, and 9-5, Friday-Sunday. Trader Joe's is open from 9am-10pm every day.
Cost: The cost of a few snacks!


On Wednesday, take advantage of Boston's Museum of Fine Art's free day and check out a new area of town at the same time. The MFA has both contemporary and non-contemporary art, so there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Nearby the MFA is the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. The Isabella Stuart Gardner museum used to be a home of the art collector of the same name, and she specified in her will that her art should be kept for posterity. The garden changes with the seasons-- viewing this garden (pictured) is a truly unrivalled experience. If you are a resident in the Boston area, it's very likely you can get a museum pass through your local library. For example, here's the list for residents of Watertown. If you are a Watertown resident, you can get a pass for all the museums I mention in this article (to visit for free any day of the week!), and many more. You can visit the Museum of Science, The Boston Children's Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and the Garden in the Woods, to name just a few.
Cost: The MFA is free on Wednesdays or with a museum pass from most local libraries; the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum costs $5 with a museum pass.


The Institute of Contemporary Art is a new Boston museum on the waterfront, featuring the art of many major and upcoming contemporary artists. On Thursday evenings after 5pm, you can visit the museum for free. In the spirit of encouraging young artists, Harborwalk Sounds are a series of ongoing concerts featuring talented young musicians. The stadium seating (pictured right)-- freely accessible all week round-- offers a breathtaking view of the harbour.
Transportation note There is not very much free parking, but the ICA is accessible via the silver line.
When 5pm-9pm, Thursdays, or any time with a library museum pass.


A Mango smoothie at Panera in Watertown will cost you about $4 in the summer, but the experience is well worth it: there's plenty of space to sit inside or outside, and you make use of free wireless or check out the sculptures around Arsenal Park. On occasion, there is also free live music. Arsenal Park reaches back towards the river, so the possibilities remain endless. There's always plenty of space to park your bike or car. You can also visit the Panera Bread's in Coolidge corner, Brookline and in Lexington. Panera offers the opportunity to relax in the city cheaply, and perhaps even avoid a monthly fee for wireless at home!


A few steps away from Forest Hills T Station (the last stop on the orange line), the Harvard Arboretum in Jamaica Plain is an oft-overlooked gem for Boston residents. As many of you know, I've been on a mission to spread the news about the Arboretum (see Day 4), and so I couldn't let this post go by without mentioning it. Entry is free, and you can enjoy a picnic, a bike ride with your kids, or just a short walk. The collection of bonsai (pictured) dates back to the 18th century, and if you're lucky you may see a turtle in one of the Arboretum's many ponds. Once you're in Jamaica Plain, check out Centre Street, the bustling center of the neighborhood. Harvest Co-op is located nearby on South Street, where you can choose from a variety of excellent quality produce and grains.

Day 4, Arnold Arboretum

The pond is already much greener.

...And a start of a series of pictures of the beautiful bonsai...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Green Belt Movement by Wangari Maathai

Jo Hunter Adams

The 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai talks about the Green Belt Movement, started in 1977.

Since 1977, over 30 million trees have been planted by the movement, and thousands of women provided with opportunities to build livelihoods.

The story is full of hope and possibility, as well as strong leadership. The movement was a simple, deeply rooted response to a problem.

Simplicity: The movement has an extremely clear goal. The steps involved in promoting tree planting is simple enough that each step towards planting trees can be replicated to prevent trees being wasted or the program being exploited.

Deep Roots: Derived from a structure that was grounded in the reality of the communities involved. Communities seem to make the choice to be a part of the movement, so the way that the movement grew was intensely organic and as result, much stronger.

Incentives: Even given the relative scarcity of resources, the Green Belt Movement sought to show respect for those choosing to join in and plant trees. As such, planting trees meant simultaneously building livelihoods.

Democratic Leadership: Maathai states that any organization—even a grassroots non-profit—needs to be democratically led from day 1. I thought of how true this likely is. For a movement to have longevity, it has to have a depth of vision and a breadth of power that makes it more than just the extension of our individual selves.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wangari Maathai on Peace and the Environment

(From Wangari Maathai's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 2004)

"Some people have asked me what the relationship is between peace and the environment, and I say to them that many wars are fought over resources, which are becoming increasingly scarce across the earth. If we did a better job of managing our resources sustainably, conflicts over them would be reduced. So, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace."

Day 3, Arnold Arboretum


Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 2, Arnold Arboretum

Day 2-- lots of rain in Boston, so had to run to get this one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our First Tomato

Glamour Shots.

The Arnold Arboretum

I am privileged to work near the Arnold Arboretum, so I thought I would share the change of season over the next few months.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Take Back Your Time, John de Graaf, Ed

Jo Hunter Adams

This book consists of a series of chapters by participants in the Take Back Your Time movement. Each chapter stands alone, there's a tremendous amount of information to be gleaned from each individual's perspective on time poverty, particularly in the United States.

When I first arrived in Boston, after growing up in South Africa and having spent two years in Wales, UK, my greatest adjustment was undoubtedly in changing the way I spent my time. I felt tremendous time pressure, and came to value time completely differently. I chose to read this book because I think it is extremely relevant for understanding the challenges facing westerners who would like to live more simply, more affordably, and with more free time.

Americans work more than any other nation in the industrialized world. Although, as a nation, work has become far more productive, it has done so without a corresponding decrease in work hours or increase in vacation time. Interestingly, where jobs have switched from an hourly-based work week to a productivity-based work week, people have actually gotten MORE done.

Although the U.S. in particular has this problem, it is surely a theme that resonates globally-- rather than decreasing work hours, people choose to continuously increase their standard of living. And this is definitely not always a choice-- decreasing work hours has not traditionally been an option.

There are many, many consequences to increased work and decreased leisure and vacation time.
1) Decreased time with children. Take Back your Time described a study that found that the greatest determinant of a child's success was not the number/breadth/depth of activities they took part in, but the number of dinners the child ate together with their family.

2) No time to exercise.

3) Increased time in front of the television. Time spent in front of the television actually increases with time spent at work, rather than being a measure of leisure time, it is a measure of how brain dead one is when one arrives home at the end of the day.

4) No time to cook. One article described how families with less time had a far greater environmental impact-- they ate out more, threw away a lot more packaging/etc, and didn't even feel they had time to recycle.
There is enough land on earth for each person (excluding all the natural habitat that we share with other species) to have an impact of about 5 acres. The average American uses up the resources of the equivalent of 25 acres. This book thus becomes extremely relevant for those of us who are thinking of how to-- individually and collectively-- tread more lightly on the earth.

The list goes on.

My take home message was this: It is possible to be less dependent on a salary by decreasing my standard of living, and one can be as productive with fewer hours-- it seems very positive for American companies to switch from model that rewards hours to a model that rewards certain results that improve the quality of service, management, or product.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Giving for Beginners

Jo Hunter Adams

I'm working on my first e-book, "Giving for Beginners" (or a title that reflects this kind of content, the title itself is open to debate.)

I generally sit down, write a few paragraphs that hopefully fit into a general structure, and then get stuck, because the subject just seems to get bigger and bigger. I would benefit a lot from hearing other people's stories and experiences.

I'm very interested in finding out which organizations you give to, and why, for this e-book. When it's finished I'll link it to this site so that anyone who would like to can download it.

If you have stories, beliefs or struggles around the subject of giving, please let me know by leaving a comment or e-mailing me, so we can communicate further outside of this blog. Thank you so much.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Worms, After 2 Short Weeks

Jo Hunter Adams

I recently started an indoor composting bin, and wrote about it here.

The last push towards composting came when my sister-in-law assured me that it doesn't smell. "Just put your scraps in, and they'll turn it into compost in a week!" I thought, since she was with us and not with the worms (in Minnesota) they were probably low maintenance, also. Almost like having a really useful pet. If you don't have space for a hamster.

So I went to the baitshop and picked some up. The advantage was that whatever happened to my worms, it couldn't be worse than the fate that would befall the other bait shop worms. For the most part, I was right.

But I didn't realize how their little bodies could squeeze into really tiny spaces. Tiny spaces drilled by me. So I lost a few. Well, 9. or 10. I think they left because it got really hot and they were trying to find somewhere cooler.

So, my advice when pursuing a worm solution: make the holes small and try to keep your babies cool.

That said, despite a heatwave here in Boston the surviving worms seem to be working very hard (well, at the worm work of eating) and the scraps are clearly being processed. And my sister-in-law spoke the truth when she said there is no smell.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Justice Part 4: Jubilee

Jo Hunter Adams

Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs- 1 Timothy 6:10

Themes: Wealth should be justly distributed, wealth as a deceptive master.

The concept of jubilee is introduced in Leviticus 25 in the Old Testament. Every fifty years, all debts were to be relieved, all slaves to be set free, all fields to lay fallow, and all lands be returned to their owners (this would apply to people who had lost land as a result of debt). It was meant to prevent extreme inequality (that we see today) from developing. This concept of finances doesn't necessarily seem fair for those who worked really hard to get what they had, but I think it speaks to the fact that often, what we have is not actually a result of our own hard work. Rather than advocating slavery for a generation, I would argue that the jubilee year was a reminder from God of how things were meant to be.

Today, many faith-based organizations are advocating for economic justice based on exactly this concept. And many Jewish organizations have practiced this concept for a very long time.

Thinking about how it applies in our life may be tricky. Maybe it means our inheritances could be given away, maybe it means that we should campaign for the cancellation of all third world debt, or maybe it just means being aware that we are seldom the master of our own situations.

When I'm thinking about justice and about giving money or other resources away, it's easy to feel a bit self-righteous. In a way, this is not surprising because it is always empowering to be able to give, particularly out of generosity rather than obligation.

This feeling of superiority is set against my own romanticization of people who live a simple life, with few resources. I dream of that simplicity, I say naively! However, simplicity should be a choice; extreme poverty is extreme stress, it is a life that is more complicated than any life anywhere.

These two feelings-- and my gut reaction to them-- can prevent me from being generous with my resources. However, just because financial support often comes with strings attached, that doesn't mean my giving must necessarily mean westernization or support of extremely unjust trade.

It could be different. It could be my response against those things, with the recognition that jubilee is slow to come unless I recognize I am the one who is to set the slaves free, I am the one who must return land, and I am the one who must cancel debts, even when it hurts.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Slow Food: A Case for Taste, by Carlo Petrini

Jo Hunter Adams

This quick read lead me through the history of the Slow Food movement-- from it's motivations in the 1980s to the global movement it is today.

The Slow Food movement is at one level a response to the Fast Food movement. Where fast food is about uniformity, predictability, and speed, the Slow Food movement wants to fight back with variety, surprise, and intentionality. It's about a lifestyle, about training tastebuds, and about placing food back into the hands of the masses. The Slow Food movement is not about emphasizing super-expensive cuisine. It's about upping the overall quality of food, and teaching people how to taste quality.

My only reservation reading Slow Food was the sense it didn't quite fit the paradigm that I sit in. It presented a fast-food slow-food dichotomy, where I would argue, that is only one of the dichotomies around food and food production. In North America and much of Europe, it fits perfectly. Yet I feel as though for the most part, Africa has long sat outside this way of thinking-- food is central, yes; I miss South African foods, yes; but something other than food, something I can't exactly put my finger on, is the fulcrum of changing society. Whereas much of what is happening in North America, particularly (simplistically: individualism, speed, quantity over quality) can be viewed through the lens of food, I am not sure this is universal.

That said, a great introduction to the history of a powerful movement.