Thursday, December 13, 2007

So excited!

This headline from the San Francisco Chronicle was like an early Christmas gift:

Batboy key to report, breakthrough for Mitchell

Alas, turns out they're not talking about Batboy after all... just baseball. Now, so disappointed...

Turns out I'm not the only one. Shocking News from the North Pole: More and more Americans, even kids, don't get the satisfaction they expect from their Christmas gifts. Turns out that when Mommy takes a second job to buy the kids matching mini-Hummers, it really doesn't improve life that much...

In an innovative strategy combining No Child Left Behind with unprecedented Corporate subsidies, Americans can substitute time, care, and attention with imported Chinese stuff for a Low Low Introductory Credit Rates. Now more than ever, good parents—and good patriots—spend, spend, spend!

Or DON'T. Please don't. End of sermon by Reverend Whackamole. I'll yield the pulpit to Reverend Billy, from the Church of Stop Shopping. Today's reading from the Book of Visa: "What Would Jesus Buy?"

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The No Impact Year is over, but the holidays are just beginning

At least for No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, who marks the end of his one year experiment today. I learned about the No Impact experiment in spring. From his blog:
The rationale for the project was this:

(lower negative impact) + (higher positive impact) = no net impact

This, of course, has no real basis in science but it was meant to make rational-sounding a more philosophical question. Could I and my family, for at least this one year, do more good than harm?

Over the year, we reduced to zero or as darn close to zero as we could:

* Our trash (we produced almost none)
* Carbon emissions associated with growing our food (we ate local, seasonal, unprocessed, vegetarian)
* Use of transportation dependent on fossil fuels (we rode bikes, push-scootered and walked)
* Consumption of resources (we bought only what we needed and then only second hand)
* Our use of mains electricity (we survived with the one lamp provided by a single solar panel, a lot of beeswax candles, no fridge and no laundry machine)
* Our use and pollution of water (lots of water conservation measures and use of homemade vegetable- and mineral-based, biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning and personal products)
* We also increased our positive impact through volunteering to help tend trees, raise money for charity, tend to oyster growing in the Hudson, etc.

By taking things to an extreme—an in Manhattan, no less—he was able to get a lot of attention from the press, and raised awareness about how much impact the average American has. As I've been reading the No Impact Man blog this year, I couldn't help but think how much easier his project would have been in Santa Barbara, where the climate is mild and local foods are abundant all year. WE CAN DO THIS. We don't have to go to the extreme, but we can make small changes that would have a big impact by making a big counter-impact. I'd like to join Trekking Left in saying I am thankful for the people who pay attention and sacrifice small comforts and question their habits. I believe that this planet matters to people. Unfortunately, I also believe that many people hear what they want to hear, and consumerism has a loud voice. My hope for the holidays is that people will consider options that help us all step off the Great American Treadmill.

A few options worth considering are:
Bill McKibben's book The Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas (get it at your library or else read about it here: Hundred Dollar Holiday)
Adbuster's Buy Nothing Christmas
New American Dream's Simplify the Holidays page

A Small Act of Resistance: The day after Thanksgiving is traditional THE biggest shopping day of the year. Please consider taking part in BUY NOTHING DAY. Yep, buy nothing all day, just to prove you still have a choice.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Don't it make my brown eggs blue

This spring, we added a couple of Ameracauna chicks, Ramona and Ruby, to the ranch. While I chose my Buff Orpingtons because they are known for having excellent, calm temperments, the Ameracauna claim to fame is laying blue and green eggs. I've been waiting all year for some blue and green eggs. Egg production had stopped while the girls were molting, but started again a few weeks ago. Lots and lots and lots of brown eggs, including lots of cute little eggs. Brown, brown, and brown.

So, I came to realize that we had defective chickens, or that in fact our Ameracauna chicks were mixed-breeds which produced lovely small BROWN eggs. Sure, I still like Ramona and Ruby, but no denying I was disappointed.

Until yesterday. In one of the nests were a large brown egg, a small brown egg, a delicately blue egg, and one barely celadon. The photo doesn't capture the subtle shading very well, but here they are, finally!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Harvest

The haunted harvest is in! Witch fingers (purple string beans), baby bat wings (Queen of Siam basil), ogre thumbs (mini eggplants), pumpkin embryos (sun gold tomatoes), and sea monster scales (Russian kale). Boo appetite!

Trick-n-Tax: In Illinois, they are now taxing pumpkins. No soup for you!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Parable of the Lost Bat

My friend Trekking Left asked, now that I've started Knit Another Planet, if Fuller & Fuller will be retired. I thought I would answer with a parable. Or a metaphor. Or maybe it's just a symbolic incident.

Earlier this year, we drove across the country to pick up a surplus step van in North Carolina. On the way back, we stopped at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The man remembered going as a boy, and I had never been. I am so happy we spent the extra time, and risked ironically running out of gas in the abandoned oil fields of Texas to see the enormous cave. It was spectacular.

As a souvenir, I bought a pair of silver earrings shaped like bats—real bats, not Batman stencil bats. Tragically, I lost one of them before we got to San Diego, a casualty of napping in the back seat. I remember this trip as a wonderful adventure. While I try to avoid daily driving, I'm a sucker for a road trip.

Just last week, the man came into the room with a "Look what I found!" And sure enough, five months later, there is my missing earring, just in time for Halloween, our favorite holiday. Of course, in the meantime, the not-lost earring had found its own secret hiding place. It would have been reasonable to get rid of it, and I thought maybe I had. Dang it.

Last Friday, the man came into the room and said "I'm going to the store to buy some milk. Want anything?" Except instead of "the store," he said "Canada." And instead of "some milk," he said "an RV." And he didn't ask me if I wanted anything. If he had, I probably would have said that I wanted us to spend Halloween together.

Two things happened Saturday, my husband left for Canada, and I found the second bat earring. I doubted that I'd ever be able to wear my bat earrings again, but here they are, dangling from my ears as I type this, with all my thoughts circling between them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm moving to the sticks

I haven't been blogging here as much as I'd like. Fuller & Fuller was starter as "our" project, intended to chronicle our experiences in developing and improving life at the ranch.

It's time to tend my own spirit at least as carefully as I've been tending the garden.
The issues we've blogged about at Fuller & Fuller still matter to me, but it's been unraveling a bit.

That's why it's time to KNIT ANOTHER PLANET. Come visit, won't you?

Fuller & Emptier

Why, yes, I have lost weight! The polyp is gone. And no, Trekkie, I'm not gay, but the polyp was bi...opsied, and normal. Whew. I hope this concludes all blogging about my uterus.

Thanks to all who sent good wishes... I feel very lucky.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So, how are you celebrating?

Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day.

Some of you know, though I haven't blogged about it here, it's been a rough ride at the ranch. The earliest collaborative hopes of Fuller & Fuller were a little Fullerling. Unbeknowst to me, some little polyp has been trespassing in my uterus, not only kicking any willing zygote to the curb but also making me feel way too lousy way too often.

So, tomorrow, that damn polyp is coming out. Good riddance. Thanks to the Queen Mum coming up to play nurse, and to Princess Whackamole for pointing out that October 11 is the best day this could happen.

Happy Coming Out Day, everyone! Here's a little drawing of me victoriously kicking the polyp to the curb. Or else me being pulled into a black closet of doom and depression.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

True story

So, I went to the Sustainability Project lecture on transportation...

but had to leave early to catch the bus.

There are still three more classes in this free series, with lots of friends speaking and participating. The food lecture by DeAnn Bauer (EcoRealtor/Goddess)even featured pictures of Noelle Aguayo's fabulous garden. A talk by my favorite Garden Wise Guy, Billy Goodnick, is part of the October 16th class. I've really enjoyed the first three sessions, and learned a few things about the environment and my community.

All classes are at the SB Central Public Library, Faulkner Gallery, from 5:30-7:30ish (7:20 if you need to catch the 24X back to UCSB)

SESSION 4 / October 2nd
GOODS & SERVICES / Party Like an Eco-Rockstar!

Ten Ways to Make Your Next Event “Green” / Selecting Eco-friendly Services:
April Palencia, Peikert Group Architects; Elizabeth Waldrop, Village Realtors;
DeAnn Bauer, Village Realtors; Jennifer Downing, PMSM Architects
Panel Discussion

SESSION 5 / October 9th
HOME & GARDEN / Eco-Living, Gotta Love It!

Home Energy Efficiency: David Inger, VCREA Energy Projects Manager
Burke Remodel: Paul Poirier, Poirier & David Architects; Allen Associates
Doering Remodel: Bill Doering; Dennis Thompson, Thompson-Naylor Architects
Live Right, Live Small, and Have a Big Life: Isabelle Greene, Landscape Architect
Panel Discussion

SESSION 6 / October 16th
HOME & GARDEN / Find Joy and Heal the Planet!

Stancer Remodel: John Kelley, Architect; Lee Walmsley, Evergreen Landscape Arch.
Permaculture: A Revival of Common Sense – Larry Santoyo, Earthflow Design Works
The Wise Guys - Owen Dell & Billy Goodnick
Eco-footprint Reports – Paul Poirier, Poirier & David Architects
Panel Discussion

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: Anne Hastings

It's easy to lose perspective in a community like Santa Barbara, especially when it comes to to a term like "poverty." While we have a lot of traffic at the Food Bank and many families struggling to make ends meet—and I don't mean to trivialize that struggle—being poor here is being rich in developing parts of the world.

In Haiti, for example, many people live on $1 a day. The country has struggled to find equality and justice since before its independence, and don't get me started about the role of the United States. Well, I'll just say one little thing, because it's relevant to the US Farm Bill. Our policies of subsidizing farmers in the US, and being sure that every corporation along the distribution chain gets to bleed out all the profit the (subsidized) market will bear, we end up having cheap rice to export. So we send it to our poorest neighbor, Haiti (again, being sure that all American shipping companies, etc., are generously paid). There, the rice is sold for much cheaper than the local rice, undercutting Haitian farmers, and pushing them off their land into urban slums. Where they enjoy the starchy goodness of US Humanitarian Aid. Meanwhile, the IMF and World Bank collects on debts accumulated by deposed dictators, payments guaranteed to keep the entire nation in poverty.

As you can tell, I get a little passionate about Haiti. So I was thrilled when the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life decided to host Anne Hastings, executive director of Haiti's largest microfinance organization, Fonkoze. The microfinance model gives women tiny loans, many under $50, but enough to transform lives in a place like Haiti. Fonkoze also educates and supports women in Haiti. Her lecture was entitled "Eradicating Global Poverty: Is It Really Achievable?"

Her talk at Victoria Hall last night gave background on Fonkoze, but focused on Hastings efforts to reach those living in extreme poverty. These people are living on less than fifty cents a day, with no concrete floor, often no roof, no latrine. The children must work instead of attending school. This is crushing poverty, or, as Hastings described it, "The poverty that kills." Hastings used the image of a ladder, on which one might climb out of poverty. "These are the people," she said, "who don't even have one foot on that ladder. Not a wheelbarrow, not a chicken, no way to get started." They are too poor even for microfinance. So, the new program helps them get that first foot on. It costs $300-$1000 for this 18-month intensive program which lifts a family of six out of killing poverty... (Gosh, one wonders... how could the US justify spending that much money on a foreign country? unless that foreign country has oil, of course...)

I was not surprised to hear she is good friends with revolutionary Dr. Paul Farmer, the subject of Mountains Beyond Mountains (he'll be speaking at UCSB October 22.)

Haiti matters for more reasons than I have time to list here. So does poverty. Hastings answer to her own question, Is eradicating global poverty really achievable?: "I don't know. But we have to keep trying." Woohoo, Anne!

And speaking of the Food Bank, tickets are on sale now for the best soup in town at Empty Bowls on Sunday, November 4. See you there!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Goldilocks Hates Slow Food

and so do I.

While I love what the Slow Food movement represents, the term "Slow Food" sticks in my craw. Slow Food is, of course, a reaction against fast food and fast food culture. What's the opposite of fast food? Slow food. Hahahahaha.

What's wrong with fast food? Well, if you're reading this blog, you probably know already—f you don't know, Fast Food Nation is a good place to start. No question, it's bad stuff. Global, cultural, individual pollution.

So I hate that Slow Food defines itself in relation to fast food. I also feel like fast food is a problem because it is so extremely large, extremely corporate, extremely cheap, extremely fast—so extremely extreme. But is the correct response another extreme? That's what the term "Slow Food" implies to me. You're for us or against us. Fast food or Slow Food. What about Just Right Food?

I feel like maybe it's important to guard against extremism in food culture the same way we do in religion or politics. Just Right Food allows you to make informed choices. Do what you can. Can if you can. If you aren't spending the last days of summer canning heirloom tomatoes from your own garden, THAT'S OKAY. If you use a can opener, you are not a traitor to The Movement. Occasionally choosing convenience shouldn't mean exile to the Dark Side, but that's what I think of when I hear the term Slow Food. The phrase is like a Sicilian grandmother chastising me for cutting corners and spitting on her traditions, wagging a boney finger beneath her black mantilla, uttering curses...

I prefer to focus on an idea that nurtures me like a good meal. I love the term "locavore" a lot—it implies community, appetite, and a little silliness. As much as I love the Slow Food Movement, I wish we could call it something else.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I Can't Believe It's Not Toxic!

The Jiffy Pop Tavern is safe from the Zaca Fire and hungry for business, but the ConAgravation theme continues.

As "news," we learn a guy in Colorado who eats lots of microwave popcorn developed lung disease. Fact is, this diacetyl disease isn't news at all.

C'mon. Is it really a surprise that microwave popcorn might have some scary stuff in it? Didn't folks notice that if the bag is microwaved for a few extra seconds, black acrid smoke-demons begin seeping from the bag? Do folks just shrug that off as an artificial "smoke-like fragrance"? It takes an exorcism to get that smell out.

It's not news. It's ConAgra. ConAgra has been poisoning its workers with scary, buttery toxins for a long time.

ConAgra Foods Inc, maker of Orville Redenbacher and Act II microwave popcorn brands, said Wednesday it will drop diacetyl from its butter-flavored microwave popcorn in the "near future" to safeguard its employees....The additive, which gives microwave popcorn a buttery taste, has long been linked with a rare lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, found in plant workers.

Oh. "Plant workers." Whew. I was worried people might have been in danger. Now that a consumer has been diagnosed with the "popcorn plant disease," there will be immediateish changes:

ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said that after months of deliberations [!] the company now expects to remove diacetyl "within a year" to protect employees who are exposed to large amounts of the additive.

"We made that decision in order to provide our employees with the safest work environment possible, but also to eliminate even the perception of concern for consumers," Childs said in a telephone interview.

Don't worry, Ms. Childs. We have no such perceptions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A silver lining?

Just in case, fire crews are wrapping Cold Springs Tavern in a protective foil wrapping. That way, if the Zaca Fire begins racing toward the pass, the historic building will be protected.

For some reason, I can't stop picturing the owner returning after the fire burns through to find the foil-wrapped tavern has expanded to twice its original size, and huge puffs of popcorn are spilling out of the doors and windows. Imagine the salty, butterish aroma!

Curse you, Jiffy Pop... I hate what you've done to me...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Are You There God? It's Me, Gloria

Big news here at the ranch... our little chick is now a hen. Gloria laid her first egg this morning. It's tiny, about the size of a quail egg, and a lovely teak brown. So cute!

One of the exciting things about raising eggs here is the variety—so much more interesting than a foam carton of identical orbs from Death Star Farms. The Orpintons' eggs are chai-ish: some just off-white, some almost cafe au lait. When the little araucanas start laying, their eggs will range from ceylon green to china blue. Pictured here (from front to back): a quarter, Gloria's first egg, an Angie egg, an Ethel egg. Ethel's eggs are about 30% bigger than Angie's—much larger than the typical grocery store egg. BIG.

In fact, I've learned that sometimes Ethel's eggs are too big. For example: a pasta recipe that asks for "three eggs" needs less than two Ethel eggs. I'm learning to trust my instincts as a cook, recipes be damned.

It will be a few more months before Gloria lays regularly enough for us to recognize her "type" of eggs—for now, we'll just know they're the little ones. And try to stop strolling around singing, Urge Overkill style: "Chick (ba bom bom bom) you'll be a layer soon..."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

"Welcome to Santa Barbara Airport... D'oh!"

I'm here today as the animated Queen Whackamole, voicing my support of the Light Blue Line Project. There has been a lot of debate about the City Council's choice to spend $12,000 dollars on painting this line—a line indicating Santa Barbara's coastline changed by the (conservatively) predicted seven-meter rise. That is: this is where your kids will want to put their beach towels to watch your grandkids or great-grandkids play...

Scientists don't know precisely when it will get here, but we know it's coming, by trickle or flood. As Bill McKibben argues in his 1989 (almost 20 years ago!) book The End of Nature, climate change means that nothing is known anymore... we're well into "best guess" territory. It's not new information we're getting now (McKibben certainly can't be accused of "greenwashing" in 1989)—we're just finally getting the old information, or kinda getting it. I don't think any of us can really comprehend how much change is ahead. I know I can't. Easier to cross that bridge when we come to it. The future will have lots of bridges: structural, emotional, cultural, economic...

Really, compared to all we don't know, the amount of sea-level rise is a relative sure thing. I don't think of the Light Blue Line as art—I think of it as information.

The value will come if we are able to act on that information. While almost all leaders now admit that global warming exists, they can't seem to incorporate this information into their planning. They say they get it, yet in their actions climate change is nothing but a theory, a remote possibility.

We need to hold our leaders accountable, and give them support, for making difficult and unpopular decisions that recognize the reality ahead. We should be questioning why the airport is being expanded in its current location, on reclaimed wetland that is highly vulnerable to changing sea levels. From afar, we in Santa Barbara can click our tongues as FEMA provides funding for folks to rebuild in Midwest flood plains year after year... we can question the wisdom of rebuilding a sinking New Orleans... but what we really need to do is recognize that change is happening, change will impact us, and the sooner we start responding, the easier our task will be.

Wow. When I get animated, I really get animated! I'm off to Moe's.

A tip of the animated iceberg to both George & Amy...

Jelly time!

Last night we visited the gorgeous (and surprisingly unsmokey) Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, where members of the extended Whackamole family are enjoying ranch living for a week. My brother-in-law greeted us with a margarita, which we sipped by the pool. Turns out, I would be an awesome cattle rancher: I like pools AND margaritas!

Anyway, we heard of their many guest ranch adventures: archery class, five-star dining, breakfast rides, and catch-and-release bass fishing were just a few of them. Alisal Ranch has a private lake, with a pier, paddle boats, and jellyfish. Um, yeah. Jellyfish, the size of a nickel. Swarms of them.

I'd never heard of freshwater jellyfish. How cool!

So, in the labyrinth of government agencies, it turns out that the U.S. Geological Survey keeps track of Non-native Aquatic Species (motto:"Putting the NAS back in NASTY"), including freshwater jellyfish. It turns out, if you flip a freshwater jellyfish over, you will be able to read "MADE IN CHINA" on the bottom.

Reading about these freshwater jellies—Craspedacusta sowerbyi, indigenous to China's Yangtze River valley—it doesn't sound like they're dangerous. They can sting, in theory, but their sting is not powerful enough to be felt by swimmers, in theory. (There are some things I'm just not interested in testing.) Scientists don't know much about them really, but they don't seem to harm local fish or have much effect on local ecosystems. Ah, sweet ignorance...

Jellyfish are fascinating. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an awesome exhibit of jellies, and I spent most of a day mesmerized by little living lava lamps. I wish they had a jelly cam. I wish I could have a tankful of jellies at home. Unfortunately, jellyfish are pretty difficult to keep. Apparently, the freshwater jellyfish are no easier.

Plus, as much as I love jellyfish in the ocean or in aquariums, I'm unnerved by the little creatures suddenly appearing in a local pond. It ain't natchrell. Freshwater jellyfish, indeed. What's next? Sharks in Lake Cachuma?

Picture from the IUP Jellyfish Research Site

P.S. It's not your imagination. Birds really do sing when you visit the Alisal web site. Not that I was fooled at all...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

First the News-Press, now this?

Many, many years before becoming a News-Press subscriber, I fell in love with the gray, pulpy paper and the grainy photography of the black and white tabloids. I bore the inky smudges on my hands like a badge of honor, and proudly papered my high-school locker with articles clipped from my favorite paper.

Over a year has gone by since I cancelled my News-Press subscription. As much as I loved the paper it was, I don't know that I treasured any of the articles the way I cherished those early clippings from the Weekly World News. It was in the Weekly World News I first learned to fear mermaids. It provided the only reliable source of political critique from the extraterrestrial perspective. News that mattered.

I still mourn the loss of my morning News-Press, the lesser of my journalistic loves. Dark vales of regret cast shadows on the road ahead of me as I learn that the Weekly World News is ceasing publication.

Woe is me. Thank you, Marty, for letting me know that our dear friend WWN is fading out of print, hiding in exile online. I like to think that there's a little Bat Boy inside each of us, plotting a triumphant return.

Friday, July 20, 2007

That sinking feeling

Bus riders are a captive audience, a fact that has not escaped the MTD. Posters line inside of each bus. Some are advertisements, many are public service type ads, often in Spanish, clearly targeting lower income riders: "Stay in School," "discount health services available at...," "Bargain Network has great benefits for single moms," etc. Myself, I'm partial to the posters with local kids' poems...

And then there's this one (with apologies for the poor quality phonetography):

The text is "What You Buy Today... Was On A Ship Yesterday" and "Moving Ships...Drives America's Economy"


I'm having a hard time with the logic behind this ad. And who would sponsor such an odd message? I figured it must be the Ship Captains' Union, Order of the Ancient Mariner, or maybe the Pirate's Club.

But hey, it's Uncle Sam! Specifically, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Apparently from the Committee to Encourage Consumption of Imported Stuff. Golly, what could be more American than that?

Actually, I can think of quite a few things. Buying less, buying local, and buying American all spring to mind. What the heck is this campaign really about? Is this an effort to spread some good PR after all the damning reports that showed how much ships contribute to smog in our area?

Does anyone have any theories?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Missing Link

We're sorry to see Santa Barbara Newsroom disappear from the list of Fuller Headlines. I know it's not to supposed to feel like they're giving up, but... it kinda feels like they're giving up. We've appreciated SB Newsroom during it's brief life, and we'll miss it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: Dave!

Wednesday is supposed to be about the good. Today started badly, as I checked in for my daily Edhat News and read about a savage attack on a pet tortoise. It was one of those "What kind a sick world do we live in?!?" mornings.

As I headed to lunch with my pal Dave, I remembered Woohoo Wednesday. I remembered I was supposed to find some good. Ugh. But I realized, as I was walking with Dave, that we were didn't have to look far. Right in Dave's hands were ceramic bowls for our lunch.

The BYOB-Bring Your Own Bowl Campaign is something Dave and I have talked about for awhile. It grew out of our observation that despite the abundance of cheap student labor (read: dishwashers), University Meals are served on plastic or styrofoam. All the food at the UCen, the Arbor, the Coral Tree, even the brand new Courtyard Cafe--all served on a little slice of petroleum. The Faculty Club is an exception, and I don't know about the residence halls, but for a "green campus" the amount of waste in food services is pretty appalling. I did hear a rumour that the Office of Sustainability was considering biodegradible plates, etc... but face it, those may save a little landfill, but they still require resources in production, distribution, etc. For some reason, the "disposable is better" seems to have spread through much of Isla Vista as well, including one of my favorite places, Naan Stop.

The idea to BYOB isn't entirely without precedent--lots of people bring their own mugs to coffee shops, and I have a reusable Blenders mug at home and at the office (I cringe--and maybe drool--a little to think of how many styrofoam Blenders cups I've thrown away over the years).

So, today, my pal Dave walked up to the guy at Naan Stop and handed him a ceramic bowl, and asked for his lunch to be served in the bowl. Naan Man was confused at first--suggesting that we get our lunch in their styrofoam bowls then pour it into our own bowls, but when Dave explained that the goal was to avoid using and wasting the throwaway bowl, Naan Man finally got it. He dished up some delicious food--I swear it tasted even better than usual.

So here's to Dave, for following through on BYOB, and making a difference every chance he gets. Woohoo Dave!


Help. That's all that comes to mind, reading about the kidnap and mutilation of a pet tortoise last weekend. I can't stop thinking about how easy it must have seemed to torture a mute animal, one that doesn't scream or yelp, though he certainly struggled.

It was broad daylight. There were witnesses, and more than one assailant. The witnesses are coming forward now, calling the sheriff to report what they saw.

I'm so furious, it takes effort to keep typing. You know what Bob needed more than witnesses after the fact? He needed HELP, someone to shout out that it's wrong to stab a living creature, wrong to drop him, wrong to roll him down a hill. He needed someone to call the sheriff as is happened, not days later.

HELP, people. HELP.

African spur-thighed tortoises are social creatures, more than one might expect. Bob was social enough to coax an autistic child to communicate with the outside world--I suppose a "coming out of his shell" image really works here. I've been lucky enough to share a home with a tortoise like Bob for 14 years. The idea of someone trying to pry him out of his shell, slice off his head and legs... I hardly know what to do with these feelings. One little thing I can do is help Bob's family, the Sullivans, with their veterinary expenses. Generously, Jeanie Vaughan of Turtle Dreams is covering Bob's immediate expenses with a loan, which the Sullivans will pay back. I guess writing a check is all I can do to help. But it doesn't make me any less angry.

Bob Sullivan
c/o Turtle Dreams
2298 Feather Hill Road
Montecito, CA 93108-1542

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Carless Whispers: Week 1

A week ago today, I parked the Whackamole chariot. Since then, I haven't driven. I've been in a car twice: the man drove to a party in Ventura, and we made a trip to Island Seed & Feed to stock up with almost 100 lbs of various seeds and feeds.

We did manage to wobble home from the co-op with an enormous load strapped onto the racks after finding Straus milk and a bulk bag of triticale on sale... but I see a bike trailer in our future.

We did a combo trip to the downtown Farmer's Market on Tuesday, biking 3 1/2 miles to the University to catch the express bus rather than walking 1 1/2 miles to catch the stop-a-block bus. It worked out nicely--we rode the bus with Joaquin Phoenix!

Last night, I hoped to further research in local beer at the Hollister Brewing Co. I also needed some supplies for a painting project, and figured I could get what I needed at Home Depot. The man had taken a loooong bike ride, but gamely agreed to walk up the the bus stop to Camino Real. We strolled past the flower fields, arrived at the stop around 7:30 to find the bus we wanted stopped running an hour earlier. Crud.

The alternative meant following the only route still running to UCSB and transferring to a second bus. Bleh.

By walking another half a mile, we had more options at the Hollister and Kellogg stop, so we walked. Phooey. That bus had also stopped running for the night. Heck, it wasn't even 8:00! Ugh.

We ditched our plans. No beer. No ceiling scraper.

After grabbing a bite at the Habit, we finally caught a bus: the 11, which drove us a half mile back to Goleta Valley Hospital. We walked home. It was a lot of adventure for a little dinner. So, this first week of Carless Whispers ended with a few Carless Grumbles.

I've been thinking a lot about setting up a formal carfree challenge. I think there would need to be a little wiggle room, for the occassional party in Ventura, for example. I also imagine an exception for carpooling in unbussable, unbikeable situations. What else?

Speaking of, Antara is performing at Cold Springs Tavern as part of the Gates & Goodell CD release party this Friday from 7-10 pm. Anyone interested in driving?

Happy Birthgiving Day to me!

And happy birthday to Princess Whackamole Del Fuego, who will be happy to know we haven't gotten any goats during her absence. Yet.

Glad fødselsdag, kid!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Live simply, drink locally

I like big beers, and I cannot lie. We've been trying to eat local foods lately, out of our own yard when possible, so for happy hour, I had this idea to serve some local beer. Lots of smaller breweries don't bottle six-packs, so it was the perfect excuse to open sample some big bottles with friends.

I found a good selection of Island Brewing Company ales at the Isla Vista Co-op. They had other beer and wine, including some from Stone Brewery in my hometown San Diego. I've heard George and Amy raving about Stone for years, so I grabbed a few of those. I found local Telegraph's California Ale at nearby Angelo's Liquor. When George added two amazing growlers from Hollister Brewing (Fairview Farmhouse Ale and what else?), we had a nice sampling of our local beers.

I have to say, the growler from Hollister was the coolest bottle of beer I've ever seen. A growler, I learned, is a half-gallon bottle that allows you to take home draught beers from smaller breweries that may not be bottling. You just get yourself a growler, and they fill it from their tap. The Hollister growler is a rounded glass jug that looks like it holds a magical healing elixir. And it kinda does.

We fashioned a blind tasting of sorts by covering the labels and sampling from nine different brews. It wasn't very scientific, and to be honest, I don't know that anyone other than George and Amy would have been prejudiced by the labels.

This time, the Stone beers were the first to go, in part because I had to uncap them first to preserve anonymity. Next time, no blind: the bottles go naked, labels exposed. I wish I'd tasted more side by side, pale ale to pale ale, to really get a sense of each type and brand of beer. As much as I enjoy beer, I don't really know much about it. An optometrist-style beer tasting would probably work best for me: "Do you prefer A or B? Okay, B or C?" I propose we undertake further research.

In any case, it is a happy happy hour indeed when one can drink locally and enjoy summer evenings with one's favorite people in the company of one's own chickens. Happy summer, every one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oh meme, oh my!

It's taken me awhile to get to the meme Amy tossed my way... but let's see if I can think of 8 Fun Facts about me...

Here's the "rules" (like the pirate code, they're more like guidelines):

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Okay, so, in the spirit of silliness, here we go...

1. Watching baby skunks nibble on grass makes me blissfully happy.
2. I am extremely lucky, especially at electric bike raffles, but jinx electric car raffles.
3. Neo-cons dig my poetry. I donate their checks to Planned Parenthood.
4. The first time I went to college I planned to major in wildlife management. The college also offered a degree in fish hatchery management.
5. I starred as Dorothy in our fourth-grade production of The Wizard of Oz. Since I didn't have any red shoes, I wore red socks. Unfortunately, it was filmed in black and white. It still bugs me that I didn't think of just wearing some other color of fancy shoes—who would have known?
6. I may be Thomas Paine's great-great-great-great-great granddaughter.
7. Mermaids scare me. A lot. Seriously.
8. I've won awards for training a pit bull, for proposing to convert an oil rig into a casino, and for keeping my temper.

I'm gonna reach out and tag locals Cookie Jill, Craig Smith (in case there's a lull in the News-Press drama), the Garden Wise Guy, and Noelle Aguayo.
I'm also going to reach out across the blogsphere to some dedicated folks I've been admiring, in case they want to play a little: Greenpa over at Little Blog in the Big Woods, Phelan at Homesteading Neophyte, my heroes over at Path to Freedom, and Emme at Simple Living (check out the Riot for Austerity 90% Emission Reduction Challenge she's got going!).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: SB MTD

Princess Whackamole is departing for the arctic circle, leaving the ranch a little colder for the next month. While she's gone, I'm hanging up my chauffeur hat. In fact, I'm going to take it a step further: I've challenged myself to go car-free.

Coincidentally, June 21 is SB MTD's "Dump the Pump Day," according to an ad I'm seeing in the Daily Sound. What is Dump the Pump Day? Doesn't look like we get a free ride, but it's a little gimmick that can get folks talking about the bus. I don't find any details about Dump the Pump on the Metropolitan Transit District website, but that's not gonna stop me from giving the SB MTD a woohoo. The fact that the 24X left us waiting at the UCSB stop after leaving a FULL FIVE MINUTES ahead of schedule last week compromises the woohoo, but all in all, I believe that the MTD needs all the positive reinforcement we can offer.

Apparently the point of Dump the Pump is that mass transit reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, and I'm all for that. I'm also impressed that MTD has added hybrid buses to its fleet and has added more frequent stops. I also like that for the most part our buses feel clean and safe.

On my wish list? I'd love to see more free bus days, to encourage more people to try the bus. For example--to put it in terms a blogger can relate to--"Free Ride Friday." I also wish the bike racks were a little bigger; our electric bikes don't fit. There are also times when the bike racks are full, and bikers have to wait for the next bus. And it would be nice if there were more neighborhood bus stops, so we didn't have to hike over a mile to catch a ride. I know, I know... there's a lot of chicken and egg problem with bus planning. Which comes first, the routes or the riders?

Our bus system is a critical part of making Santa Barbara sustainable. It ain't as easy as driving, it ain't sexy, but you get to stare out the window at the beautiful planet you're helping to save. If you're not ditching your car at least once a week, why not?

Is anyone else interested in a little car-free challenge?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blogthing #1: Me as a Wine

You Are Sauvignon Blanc

Engaging and energetic, you have a lot to offer the world - most of it they've never seen anywhere else!
You are the type of person who carves your own path in life... and you invite everyone else to come along.
The only thing predictable about you is that you could have anything up your sleeve.
You're all about sampling all of life's experiences. Both the savory and unsavory ones.

Deep down you are: Laid back and young at heart

Your partying style: Anything goes... seriously!

Your company is enjoyed best with: Smoked meats [or SEITEN! yay!] or spicy food

Thanks to Blogthings, Friday blogging just got a whole lot easier.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Smelt: a little fishy

Update on the fish kill: I received calls back this afternoon from our local Fish & Game warden and the inspector at Environmental Health Services. Willy Brommett at EHS was able to go take a look. He said the lovely silver fish are smelt, confirming what Pierhead said, and that they may have jumped into the slough during the very high tide last night. Once there, they became trapped and suffocated in the slough. A very sad ending for such shiny creatures, but a boon for the local seabirds. Thanks to Willy Brommett for continuing Environment Health Services woohooable streak.

Meanwhile, our game warden called to say that he is in Cuyuma today and wouldn't be able to check it out. I appreciated his call, but have to admit to being troubled by the singular "warden." We only have one in Santa Barbara County? Yow. So, I guess today's a good day to go poaching on the south coast... add Fish & Game to the underfunded list...

R.I.P. smelts.

Column A! Column A!

Why do so many folks keep on insisting that climate change is a complex problem, that we need more information before we take action? Do we really need more time to answer this one?

Boil, boil, toil and trouble

Riding to UCSB along the Obern Trail—especially on my electric bike—is usually a relaxing and centering commute. Rabbits and squirrels run along the trail, and the area along Atascadero Creek, past San Jose Creek, Goleta Slough and the beach is home to blue herons, egrets, coots, mallards, kingfishers, redwing blackbirds, and dozens of other species... this morning I even saw a robin. Unusual for this area.

Unfortunately, that's not all I saw.

In fact, I heard it before I saw it, on the bridge over San Jose Creek. Hundreds of silver fish bubbling to the surface, writhing and dying.
[June 15 edit: I thought the link below would make clear that I found this picture online. I didn't take it myself. I didn't have a camera with me. The picture above was not taken at San Jose Creek, but a similar phenomenon elsewhere, with small fish dying in large numbers.]

When I got to my office, I started making calls. I'm happy to report that our government is still funding answering machines. Lots of 'em. I called the direct line to Goleta Beach Park, the general line for SB Parks, as well as three separate numbers for California Fish and Game before I reached a helpful dispatcher in Sacramento, who may have better luck than I had in contacting our local game warden.

I also called the Goleta Sanitary District, since their plant is right there. They were responsive to my concerns (thanks, Jeff), and also referred me to Environmental Health Services, where Rick Muirfield (Sorry, guessing at the spelling) took the time to listen, confirm details, and send an agent to check it out. So, I don't feel too much like woohooing about this whole situation, but it is Wednesday, so I dedicate this Who to Woohoo Wednesday to Rick, with sincere thanks.

Massive die-offs like this are called "fish kills." They are most often caused by a lack of oxygen in the water, which is most often caused by rapid algae growth, which is most often caused by excessive proteins in the water, which is most often caused by agricultural run-off, including synthetic fertilizers used in residential landscaping.

Fortunately, factory farms aren't a problem here, but consider where I found the picture above yet another reason to avoid those big-ag eggs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Up, up with people...

Disclaimer: The reasoning and/or engineering skillz in this post are solely those of Queen Whackamole, and do not represent the fuller Fuller & Fuller skill set.

I'm generally a stair-taker, and have been for most of my life, rarely one to pass up the opportunity to burn a few extra calories. More stairs now = more beer later. Of course, there's the added benefit of saving energy by not using the elevator. So, several times each workday, I walk up four flights of stairs to my lair, burning calories, saving energy...

So, as I'm walking up the stairs, it occurs to me: what goes up, must come down. If it takes energy to take the elevator up, can it possibly require equal energy both directions? I don't think so.

It seems like it must take more energy for the elevator to lift a load than to drop it. And lifting a heavier load takes more energy than lifting a light load: Taking six people to the third floor is more work than taking one. So... here's the big question... is taking six people DOWN three floors LESS work than taking one? If I add my mass to the equation, is the elevator working less than it would without me?

What do you think? Obviously, I wouldn't want to call the elevator up to get me, but if it is already here... Is it better to go down in the elevator? (privacy concerns aside—speaking purely in terms of energy usage)

Which brings up the thought: Could elevators be designed like regenerative braking systems, so that the energy generated on the way down is stored for later trips up? Seems like. For all I know, they already are.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Monster Solar MADNESS! (RSVP to get in FREE, otherwise you gotta pay SBMNH admission:

Want to learn more about solar power? Come to Solar SUNday!

When? Sunday, June 10, 11am to 5pm
Where? SB Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol

Enjoy an afternoon filled with solar power education, including a solar trade show, hourly workshops with solar experts, a screening of the short film "Buying a Solar Electric System," children's activities, and energy-saving prize drawings throughout the day.

Workshop Schedule:
11:00 am - Energy Efficiency: Your First Step
presented by South Coast Energy Efficiency Partnership
12:00 pm - California Solar Initiative
presented by South Coast Energy Efficiency Partnership
1:00 pm - Solar on Your Home or Business
presented by Don Campbell, California Solar Electric Company
2:00 pm - Solar Design Aesthetics and Passive Solar Guidelines
presented by Heather Baker, City of Santa Barbara
3:00 pm - The Future of Solar
presented by Tam Hunt, Community Environmental Council

Workshop topics include: energy efficiency, solar for your home or business, the California Solar Initiative, solar design aesthetics and passive solar guidelines, and the future of solar energy. Presenters include representatives from local government, local solar installers, and CEC staff.

There is no cost for this event, but you must RSVP to receive free admission to the SB Museum of Natural History on Sunday, June 10.

It's the Debating Game!

Way back when I was a young Whackamole, I remember watching presidential debates without CNN's logo plastered all over the backdrop. In fact, in those days, there was (gasp!) no CNN. No C for that matter. Alas, the line between politics and marketing was smeared away long ago, and I'm not just talking about corporate sponsors of our presidential debates—I'm talking about the candidates.

I've often heard that if debates were televised in 1860, Lincoln wouldn't have been elected. After watching the debates this week, I can't help feeling that if America is really going to choose a president based on their mad game-show skillz rather than experience and policy, let's just be honest about it and add some tried-n-true gameshow techniques to level the playing field. For example:

  • "Contestent #1...": So that candidates can be given equal time and consideration by the moderator, the moderator might address each candidate from behind a screen, without knowing which candidate is being addressed, like The Dating Game.
  • "Phone a Friend": We're not electing a president—we're electing an administration. The candidates' advisors are just as important, maybe MORE important, than the individual. We're electing a team, not just a captain. So let's let all of 'em be involved in the debate.
  • Audience Polling: Let the folks at home cast their votes. I'm curious to know how other people respond, other than the studio audience in New Hampshire. I want one of those cool real-time, on-screen polls! Hey, maybe like that horse race game they have at the carnival! Or maybe that's going too far...
  • and wasn't there another game show where even the audience couldn't see who was answering the questions? What was that one? I love the idea of choosing a candidate based on his or her ideas and experience rather than looks... or am I just behind the times?

Maybe today's leader needs to look like a leader, needs to display well, needs to soundbyte with precision... maybe the marketing does matter. Maybe, but I hope not.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Suddenly on my radar...

I'd been planning to support Obama, but his stance on global warming has been absolutely underwhelming. Then John Edwards seemed like the guy. But check out Bill Richardson's kick-ass energy plan:

* Cut oil demand: 50% by 2020
We must reduce oil imports from around 65% to 10%. We can reach these goals in part by getting the 100 mile per gallon (mpg) car into the marketplace, pushing fuel economy standards to 50 mpg by 2020, and setting a life-cycle low-carbon fuel standard that reduces the carbon impact of our liquid fuels by 30% by 2020, including increasing use of alternative fuels.
* Change to renewable sources for electricity: 50% by 2040
I am calling for a national renewable electricity source portfolio standard of 30% by 2020 – which will rise to 50% by 2040. This is aggressive, but necessary as we start using more electricity for automobiles. I will push for an energy productivity law requiring a 20% improvement in energy productivity by 2020. We could easily save customers $21 billion a year by 2020. Also, my market-based cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions will create incentives for the electric and industrial sectors to make significant reductions in their carbon emissions.
* Dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions: 90% by 2050
20% by 2020, and 80% by 2040 -- ten years faster than scientists say is necessary, because we must lead the world, and we can’t afford the possibility of backsliding and inaction. We will start with a market-based cap and trade system. Economists say the world can protect itself from drastic climate change at a cost of 1-3% of our economic activity. We can afford to protect the climate. Given the risks of catastrophic climate change, we can’t afford not to.
* Lead by example and restore America as the world’s leader
We must return to the international negotiating table and support mandatory world-wide limits on global warming pollution. We will work closely with fast-growing nations and, as President, I will cooperate with the European Union, the World Bank, and other allies to help finance the incremental cost of “doing it right.” I will create a North American Energy Council with Mexico and Canada, which supply about 20% of our oil, and make sure our relations with these neighbors are firm and friendly. As we reduce our demand for foreign oil, we should work with the Persian Gulf nations, and our partners in consuming nations and the United Nations Security Council, to try to create a multilateral system for protecting the Gulf so that within ten years the U.S. presence there could be sharply and safely reduced.
* Get it all done without breaking the bank
We will raise some revenue from the sales of carbon permits, for example. Further, I will get out the “green scissors” to cut back on wrongly-placed tax subsidies. Over time, this program will yield huge productivity increases in our economy, as well as significant budget savings and revenues. We will create more than 10 times as much value in the American economy by reducing our oil imports as we spend to make this program happen.

I think I'm ready to make my first campaign donation of the year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: Chris Jordan

We spent part of Mother's Day having a good debate about responsibility in the media, specifically conservative talk radio's attitude toward climate change. Based on the facts we have today, it feels criminal to me that those in a position of power and influence are actively discouraging change with the same ol' "only leftist hippies worry about carbon emissions" crapola. The time for scepticism is over. In my opinion, treating climate change like a "hoax" (in the words of one of their allies) is far more deserving of censure than calling a few basketball players names. Really, the stakes could not be any higher. Spreading misinformation like they do is, at best, criminal negligence. I don't feel I'm exaggerating when I say those guys are threatening my life... hell, they're threatening LIFE. Yep, I got a little worked up about it. Sorry, Mom.

It's just that we are strong believers in the superhero creed: Use your powers for good. They don't. However, Sara over at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly introduced me to Chris Jordan, specifically his series "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait":

This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.

So, hooray! So good to see someone using his powers for good! Woohoo, Chris Jordan! Take a look at his site--it was a little slow to load on my computer, but worth it.

And belated Happy First Mother's Day to Noelle Aguayo. Woohoo Moms!

Amen, brother.

The distinguished gentleman at Big Table sets a place for Paul Hawken.

Well said, Patrick. More about Paul Hawken on Grist today...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Miles to go before we sleep.

I would love to say that we dipped our toes into the Pacific before beginning our drive, and that three days later we dipped them in the Atlantic. In reality, we weren't thinking about symbolism and ritual as we left, and by the time we got to our destination, about 80 miles from the Atlantic, 80 miles seemed like a long way to drive for a metaphor. But we could have.

15 states in seven days. And not those teeny New England states, either: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and back through Texas, New Mexico, Texas, New Mexico (yeah, the road loops around that way), Arizona, California.

We're more tired than a 22-wheeler, but we're back at the ranch. There's so much I want to write about: whacky weather, bat caves, cheap land, pentecostals, carbon offsets, recycling at truck stops, books on tape, billboards, gator ponds, walmarts, la migra... but it's enough right now to battle the ghost of the highway. Our bodies are so used to feeling that steady surge of the truck that now we're like sailors trying to get our land legs back.

On her recent trip, Amy found smashed pandas. Our drive was like a visit to Wes Craven's Natural History Museum, a gory display of North America fauna. It was especially sad and fascinating to see a puma by the side of road as the sun was rising in New Mexico. We also saw pronghorn antelope, white tailed deer, mule deer, badger, javelina, turtles, and one large creature that might have been a black bear. And of course a lot of little armadillos. Happily we didn't contribute to the mangled menagerie, and managed to make it home without snagging even a speeding ticket.

We are both tired and inspired.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday*: Paul Hawken

Who to Woohoo Wednesday is all about focusing on what's going right, at least one day a week. Paul Hawken (he wrote the "critical mass" article I linked to earlier this week) is an activist and writer who's been focusing on what's going right every day for over a decade. His forthcoming book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming will be released May 10, and he'll be in Santa Barbara, at the Lobero Theater, on May 14. It's a free event—thanks UCSB Arts & Lectures!

To quote Bill McKibben (something I seem to do an awful lot lately):
This is the first full account of the real news of our time, and it's exactly the opposite of the official account. The movers and shakers on our planet aren't the billionaires and the generals--they are the incredible numbers of people around the world filled with love for neighbor and for the earth who are resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing. This powerful and lovely book is their story—our story—and it's high time someone's told it. Nothing you read for years to come will fill you with more hope and more determination.

We talk a lot about addressing the climate crisis in the blogsphere (and happy hour barsphere), often debating the responsibility of government vs. individuals and questioning the effectiveness of legislation vs. grassroots change. In addition to writing and teaching, Hawken's work has included consulting with governments and corporations on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy, so I'm looking forward to his take on things... seems like he's spent time in both the government policy and grassroots worlds.

We'll be away from the ranch for a week or so, hopefully back in time to hear Paul Hawken in person on the 14th. While we're on the road, we hope to visit the folks at Greasel (I still want to call them Greasel, even if they've chosen to go with the new name Golden Fuel Systems) and learn more about running on WVO (Waste Vegetable Oil) and revisit Violet, a small town outside New Orleans where I did some cleanup work last year.

*Thanks to the miracle of the Internets, as you'll notice by the timestamp on this post, I'm writing this yesterday!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Critical mass

Maybe we're getting there...

Going too far

Until recently, if I thought at all about imported foods it was generally with a historian's sense of wonder, imagining how emperors once sent armies to gather spices I can buy for a few bucks at the grocery store, or how exotic chocolate seemed to Europeans just a few hundred years ago. I think about letters from the Pioneering Whackamoles, how they craved fresh fruit during the winter months, and how rare it was to taste an orange. Then I walk outside, and grab a fresh tangelo right off the tree, thinking, This one's for you, Laura Ingalls...

I never, never, ever thought about the drawbacks of imported food until we started looking at climate change and carbon emissions. Not that we need to give up imported foods entirely, but they should be accents to a local meal. A dash of Indian saffron is a luxury; buying tomatoes from Chili is just irresponsible.

The growing eater's reading list—Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilema: A Natural History of Four Meals, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, and Alissa Smith and JB Mackinnon's Plenty, to name a few—is fueling the fire for ideas like the 100-mile harvest and the Eat Local Challenge. Go, Locavores!

There's tons of stuff about this on the web—I have links to a few local sites on the right side of this post. A cool one is The 100-mile Diet: Local Eating for Global Change, which includes a super cool mapping feature. I learned that 100 miles from the ranch includes more possibilities than I expected. Maybe even local wheat, rice, or dairy!

And why did the chicken cross the country? Another awesome site, The Ethicurean, pecked out Culinate's article on Metro Chickens.

Yum... time for some huevos rancheros!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Free Coffee Sunday Night

UCSB has been hosting an excellent Global Warming — Science & Society Event Series, which has featured James E. Hansen, Steve Koonin (which we missed), and Elizabeth "the rock star of climate change" Kolbert so far. The final lecture in the series is Bill McKibben, this Sunday night, April 29th, 7:00, UCSB Campbell Hall.

To summarize the series thus far: the message from Hansen and Kolbert was alarming: WAKE UP!

I sensed people leaving Kolbert's "Well, It's Even Worse Than It Was" lecture on the 19th slightly dazed, the way I am when the alarm goes off each morning. That "Ugh..." followed by " what?"

So, if Hansen and Kolbert were the alarm, I'm hoping McKibben will be the cup of coffee that actually gets us moving. His message is consistently action-oriented, what we can DO to make a difference and how we can move forward. Organizer of the recent STEP IT UP campaign, Bill McKibben is also author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (there's a good review at The Moral Equivalent of War), as well as The End of Nature, Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas, Mabye One: A Case for Smaller Families, and others, too—an activist's encyclopedia! Clearly there are many things we can do and choices we can make other than just following the glaciers to extinction.

Enough "Problem. Problem. Problem." Bring on the solutions! Bring on the McKibben!

And keep your hands off the snooze button.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Throw him OUT.

I sent a message to Lois Capps encouraging her to consider Kucinich's resolution to impeach Cheney... if you have a moment, let her know what you think.

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: Mma. Ramotswe

Who to Woohoo Wednesday is doing its job! I find myself focusing more on the people who are creating positive change in the world—and there are lots of them! The news is full of woohooables.

Yet I found myself thinking about Mma. Ramotswe today. Mma. Ramotswe is a lady detective in Botswana. Like me, she is married to a mechanic. She appreciates a cup of bush tea, a tidy home, and a well-swept yard. She loves her family, her community and her country, and works to make it better. She cultivates a simple, uncluttered life. Sure, she's a fictional character, but I appreciate her.

Face it: fictional characters are some of the most influential people in our culture. We meet them in books, movies, TV, music videos, or as the quasi-fictional personas adopted by celebrities. They may be fictional, but they are part of our communities. We invite them in, listen to what they have to say, study their responses, learn from their examples. We hear a lot about the impact screen violence has on kids, but we're all affected.

Here at the ranch, we don't usually hang with assassins, gangstas, or pimps... at least not intentionally. There's a lot of bling in fiction, a lot of consumerism and detached self-centeredness. A lot of characters have a kill-or-be-killed, I'm-gonna-get-mine ethic that leaves me feeling like I need a shower.

Mma. Romtswe leaves me feeling like I want to slow down, sit on the patio, and watch the chickens. It's a rare gift to feel calmer, less anxious, more centered, and that's what Mma. Romtswe brings to my world. Woohoo for that!

She's also on my mind because I was at the library yesterday and found a new No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book. I swear it wasn't until I got home that I noticed the title: The Good Husband of Xebra Drive.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Honey, can we get a Xebra?

Here at the ranch, we love cars and we hate what driving them does to our planet. Our best efforts with increased efficiency and biofuels reduce our impact, but don't solve the problem.

The best solution, it seems to me, is an electric car that runs on solar. Unfortunately, the electric car has been killed, at least for now, unless you have $100,000 to spend. There are the so-called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, which are basically golf carts with a 25 mph maximum speed. The speed is restricted because NEVs are exempt from auto safety features like seat belts and air bags. (It's worth considering that although airbags and solid bumpers and side-impact bars make cars safer, they also make the car much, much heavier, and much less fuel efficient.) NEVs are ideal for planned communities, senior parks, and UCSB uses them for campus maintenance crews. Alas, not a good fit for Fuller & Fuller. 25 mph is just tooooo slow, even for Santa Barbara streets.

I thought I was out of options. Until I saw the Xebra.

At $10,000, the Xebra is incredibly affordable by EV standards. Classified as a motorcycle for DMV/DOT purposes (though no, you don't have to wear a helmet), it side-steps the 25 mph limit on NEVs and goes 40+ mph, with a range of 25 miles on a charge, 40 miles per day. In the same class as the single passenger $25,000 Myers NmG, the four door, four passenger Xebra should be able to get us all downtown and back—though I was a little snug in the back seat during a test drive. Like the NEVs, the Xebra is missing a lot of the safety features we're used to in a car, but it is safer than a bicycle. The Xebra Xero has solar panels on the roof, so it replenishes its batteries all day.

The drawbacks? It's made in China, though imported by a California company. The safety issue is also a concern. Also, we have to consider that a new vehicle requires resources in its manufacture.

On the plus side: I want one. And right now, my beloved Santa Barbara Electric Bicycle Company is hosting Little Radio EV, which is as close to buying locally as we can get.

Should we? The comment board is open.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Reality? We're soaking in it!

Hearing a lecture by Elizabeth Kolbert at UCSB last night was less relevation than reinforcement. Climate change is real, scary, and generally worse than we can imagine. Like starlight, the weather is we experience today isn't created today--it's been in the pipeline for years. So I guess we're getting better weather than we deserve right now. Future generations will be dealing with the consequences of our actions. There is a point of no return, where the environment will begin a death spiral, at least as far as humans are concerned. We may be too late already, but there may be still opportunities to avoid catastrophe. Only hindsight will show where exactly it was. Our best hope is change NOW: real, immediate, individual now, not ten years in the future bureaucratic, political now.

There are lots of individual choices to be made. What we eat, what we buy, and how we drive are all opportunities to make a difference. I've been making an effort to drive less, and thinking in terms of a having at least one formal car-free day each week. I like Car Free Friday because I like alliteration. Plus, Friday is Happy Hour, and being car-free means I can be beer-full!

Fridays are also easier since I don't drive Princess Whackamole to school. Getting her to school has been the biggest challenge for me in going car-free. Safe routes to school are a Big Topic in Santa Barbara right now, especially since the tragic death of Jake Boysel. Jake was killed while riding his bike to school, despite being in a marked bike lane. I've written before about the chaos that is the high school drive. Even with the new stop sign, it's a zoo, or like a zoo would be if lemurs could drive. If there's anything scarier than driving near the school, it's biking or walking there. The closest bus stop is almost two miles from the ranch, so that's not a great option either. But I digress.

Yesterday was Thursday. I drove Princess Whackamole to school and myself to work. Drove home from work. Walked to the Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic read-a-thon, then we rode our bikes to hear Elizabeth Kolbert's lecture. I left feeling committed to my first Car Free Friday. We rode to the store before going back to the ranch. By the time we were riding home, it was almost 11 p.m. Almost Car Free Friday!

Then the rain came. And with it, snow on the hills, umbrellas, car keys, and a vision of Car Free Saturday. Or Sunday.

The best laid plans...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: Ed

I like noticing odd little things as I walk or bike around town. I like knowing the history of things around me. I like knowing why. I even like knowing how many. And I like to read things written by people who have fun writing.

So I love Edhat, with quirky trivia contests, Where Is It Wednesdays, dog of the week, veggie of the week, . Ed, the deadicated staff, and the Edhat dog all get a "Woohoo!" from the ranch. Yesterday, Edhat founder Peter Sklar received a commendation from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors: "We, the supervisors, do heartily woohoo..."

I love what Edhat adds to our community. Especially since the implosion of the News-Press, Edhat forums have become a gathering place for casual news and commentary. Our community feels more democratic, more intimate, and more informed with Edhat. Not just the Edhat site, itself; I don't think it's much of a stretch to call Peter the godfather of Santa Barbara's blogging community. Or maybe more of a midwife of sorts. Or a dealer that gives you the first hit free, and leads to a sordid life of hardcore blogging.

Yeah, that's it. Thanks, Edhat. Woohoo!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Happy Tax Day!

We Santa Barbarians have paid $157,500,000 for the war so far.

No wonder we can't afford to provide free buses...

In an "unrelated" story, 60 Santa Barbara teachers may be laid off... [upated 4/18]

Monday, April 16, 2007

The cilantro's as high as an elephant's eye

What the heck to do with so much cilantro? Freeze it? Dry it? Can it?

The experiment is all about learning what to plant, how much to plant, where to plant... note to self: next time, a little less cilantro.

Bee very afraid

The bees are disappearing from our lives. A whole chorus of bee sting survivors is shouting "Hooray! Good riddance!" But it's not that simple, honey.

Think of them as tiny little miners' canaries wearing striped jumpsuits. Not only are they lying feet-up, backs to the newspaper, whole hives are disappearing altogether. Before you shrug your shoulders and reach for the Splenda, think about how much of our food comes from plants or trees that depend on pollination by bees. No bees=no fruit, no coffee, no chocolate, no wine... It's leak, and land, without the ees.

It's a mystery. A scary one. No one is sure what happens to the disappeared bees, but a group of scientists is beginning to suspect cell phones. As sonar to whales and dolphins, so cell phones to bees: disorientation and death. If cell phones are the problem, goodness knows I'm part of it. Most of us are. I imagine Americans will be even less willing to reduce their cell phone use than they are are to reduce their driving. Then it's "So long, see ya, wouldn't wanna bee ya..."

Until then, we're hoping to create a bee sanctuary here at the ranch by planting more bee-licious, bee-lovely bee-tanicals. The bees love the bottle-brush hedge (as do the hummingbirds and other pollinators-click on the picture to see it full size, I'm kinda proud of it!). Berkeley hosts a buzzworthy site about developing urban bee gardens. Let's keep that fruit, coffee, chocolate, and wine coming! Oh, and honey, too.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ah, those harebrained memes...

Thanks to Esau for helping smooth away the last of the work week with this meme!


Q. What is your salad dressing of choice?
A. Annie's Shiitake & Sesame

Q. What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
A. Naan Stop in Isla Vista

Q. What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
A. Blue Bayou at Disneyland!

Q. On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
A. 20ish%. Or $2 per person (since we eat lots of cheap food)

Q. What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick off of?
A. Seiten! (Ask me again in two weeks...)

Q. What is your favorite type of gum?
A. Whatever is minty and on sale.


Q. What is your wallpaper on your computer?
A. The man in his '60 Cadillac hearse

Q. How many televisions are in your house?
A. Maybe a dozen, but only one works. Maybe we'll make the others into solar ovens...


Q. What’s your best feature?
A. My high pain tolerance.

Q. Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
A. A HUMAN! Princess Whackamole!

Q. Which of your five senses do you think is keenest?
A. Hearing. For example, those voices... hear them?

Q. When was the last time you had a cavity?
A. Two years ago.

Q. What is the heaviest item you lifted last?
A. A washing machine (with help, of course)

Q. Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
A. Probably. Does anesthesia count? If so, definitely.


Q. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
A. Absolutely. I hate suspense.

Q. Is love for real?
A. Yep.

Q. If you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
A. Change, from Queen? I don't think so!

Q. What color do you think looks best on you?
A. Blue.

Q. Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
A. Yes. Sometimes not by mistake, too.

Q. Have you ever saved someone’s life?
A. I like to think so. I've certainly saved a lot of animals.

Q. Has someone ever saved yours?
A. Yes. And a lot of times, animals have saved me back.


Q. Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000?
A. Sure!

Q. Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100?
A. Can I spend some of the $100 on beer first?

Q. Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
A. No way.

Q. Would you never blog again for $50,000?
A. Sure... I could outsource my blogging for cheap and come out way ahead.

Q. Would you pose nude in a magazine for $250,000?
A. No. I have a fear of being doodled on. If you know what I mean.

Q. Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000?
A. Sure! Unless it's all at once... again can I spend some of the $1,000 on beer first?

Q. Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
A. Do I get to choose which one? Like with lobsters?

Q. Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000?
A. No problem.

Q. Give up MySpace forever for $30,000?
A. No problem. Damn... I'm going to be soooo rich!!!


Q: What is in your left pocket?
A. Nothin.

Q: Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
A. I can't endorse anything that promotes throwing steak at llamas.

Q: Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
A. Some of both right now.

Q: Do you sit or stand in the shower?
A. Stand (ditto Esau's question)

Q: Could you live with roommates?
A. Hey! Offer me lots of money or I don't answer.

Q: How many pairs of flip-flops do you own?
A. Two.

Q: Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
A. I can't remember... I nodded at a sheriff on my way into Blenders on Wednesday...

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. Empress Whackamole.


Q: Friend you talked to?
A. The distinguished gentleman from Big Table.

Q: Last person you called?
A. My man.


Q: First place you went this morning?
A. Patio door to release the hounds.

Q: What can you not wait to do?
A. Happy Hour!!!!

Q: What’s the last movie you saw?
A. Bogart Beat the Devil

Q: Are you a friendly person?
A. Didn't I ask for a beer a few questions back? Where the heck is my beer???

Okay, I tag Noelle Aguayo, Big Table, and Flexible "It's been almost exactly a year since I last blogged" Planet. Happy Friday!

Stepping Up from the blogless fog

The last few weeks were rough ones here at the ranch, as the regular reader of Fuller & Fuller may have noticed. So quickly did the blogless fog descend that this entry was left unfinished and unposted. So, here are belated thoughts on last month's news:

It seems that the message on global warming couldn't be much more simple or clear. We need to dramatically change our habits, particularly regarding our use of fossil fuels emissions, and we must do so NOW.

Congress is hearing lots about climate change issues this week, as Philip Cooney admits making hundreds of changes to scientific releases to bring them into line Al Gore addressing the panel today.

It's sad that this level of government corruption hardly raises the nation's eyebrow. Here you have a key advisor to the Bush administration, not conincidentally a playah in the American Petroleum Institute, claiming there's nothing wrong with "adjusting" scientists' press releases to bring them into line with administration policies.

Yes, there IS something wrong with that.

And that's where the fog hit...
So, last month's news, but maybe some encouragment to attend one of tomorrow's STEP IT UP events. Step It Up is intended to show our government that we want carbon cut 80% by 2050. There's an ice cube toss at Goleta beach from noon to 2:00. Anyone interested? It's a nice walk from the ranch...along the beach if the tide allows...