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.