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...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: Colin Beavan

or Stephen Colbert... They both rock.

I love what No Impact Man Colin Beavan is doing, and have mixed feelings about the attention he's getting for doing it. On the plus side: he's bringing the issue of consumerism into the spotlight. On the downside, does it make it seem that a low-impact lifestyle is part of the lunatic fringe? I don't know.

I suppose what I want is for the Colin Beavans of the world to become so commonplace as to be completely unnewsworthy. I want Colin Beavans to be the norm, not the exception... but since we're not there yet, woohoo Colin Beavan! and thanks to Noelle Aguayo for requesting more Woohoo Wednesdays.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hey! Everybody out of the car pool!

Getting Princess Whackamole to school has been a little more exciting than it should be. The traffic flow around high schools is notoriously problematic: new and student drivers, distracted parents on cell phones, all the predictable stuff. Now add to that the insurance industry's lobbying for new teen driving laws a few years back, including one that outlaws teen carpools. I imagine the intent was to reduce the number of kids gone wild during evenings and weekends, but I don't think they fully considered the impact on school traffic.

On a side note, some of my best memories of high school are driving to school. My best friend Jenny and I would sit in the back seat while her older sister, Mary, drove. They'd pick me up in the morning, along with Mary's friend who lived across the street from me... The tape deck, the laughing, the screams as we whipped through yellowred lights...

Okay, maybe cars full of teenagers are more likely to have accidents, but is one car with four teenagers more dangerous than four, one-teen cars? The law has already been adapted to allow siblings to drive together if they have a note from their parent (this required a change to the original law). Couldn't the law be adapted to allowing carpooling to and from school?

If you have any doubt, try driving around a high school during peak hours. There are so many more cars coming to campus each day, the student lot can't hold them all. The whole neighborhood fills up with cars, each bringing one student to school...
Could there be a more effective way to indoctrinate a new generation of individual drivers than to teach them that CARPOOLS KILL?

But that's not what I wanted to write about today.

One specific intersection near the high school has been especially dangerous. It's an unmarked intersection, with poor visibility and no clear right-of-way. It's one of those intersection where cars usually slow down, but too often fly right through at full speed. Really scary.

After years of cringing each time I got to that corner, on February 7 I wrote to the Goleta Mayor and City Council to request a stop sign. And today, it was there. Two actually, exactly where they were needed.

I wanted to thank the Goleta City Council for putting in those stop signs.

THAT'S what governments are for.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Serving Seiten

Last week, a devastating howl was heard across the ranch. It sounded like Chewbacca had tripped into one of the gopher traps. But, no, that wasn't it.
Santa Barbara's Italian Greek Market is closing April 14, to be replaced by a Verizon store. Their gyros are considered an essential fortification for some here at the ranch, inspiring the aspiritual to enter a state of tracelike meditation.
Yes, the man will miss his gyros.
What's a vegetarian ranch cook to do?
I summon on the powers of seiten.
Seiten is cooked wheat gluten. What makes seiten a boon for veg cooks is that it has a meatier consistency than tofu or tempeh, and so it's easily used as a vegetarian meat substitute. And yes, it tastes like chicken...if you do want it to. If you've ever visited Shang Hai and enjoyed their vegetarian sweet and sour "chicken"—I hate those annoying quotes to say "chicken"—or their Mongolian "beef," you've had seiten. It can be seasoned to mimic all sorts of meaty flavors. I've been making some pretty good Italian sausage with seiten lately, a variation of the Post Punk Kitchen's Recipe o' Greatness. Sausages are an easy vegetarianable food, since after all, how much does sausage really taste like meat? It's the spices that make a good sausage good. And really, what's a gyro but a giant sausage, sliced and grilled?
The challenge in making seiten gyros will be that I haven't tasted gyros for over twenty years, so I expect a lot of trial and error in my quest for the perfect seitenic gyro.

Meanwhile, the owners of the Italian Greek Market, who also own the building, will be collecting $35,000 a MONTH in rent from the Verizon store. Does anyone else wonder why a phone company needs a high-rent storefront? $35,000 is a lot of text messages. Remember when phone calls cost a dime and you could still find independent businesses on State Street?