Archive for February, 2009

And Thursday Makes A Comeback!

Wow, today was looking rough, but now I’m at home, self medicating a cold with Otter Creek Winter Ale and peach tea (the herbal medicine aisle at Whole Foods confuses and frightens me) and watching that episode of The Office where Jim bikes to work.  That isn’t even the good part!

Today Obama outlined his proposed budget for the next year or so, and beyond all the other stuff I like (and don’t) about it, he’s proposing to pay for some of the new spending by starting a cap and trade system for carbon emissions.  Cap and trade programs haven’t worked so great in Europe, mostly because they tend to not limit the total amount of carbon allowed to be emitted very well, they just put a price on it.  However, a good program, with a stringent carbon limit that decreases over time, would go a long way towards assigning pollution a real cost in the marketplace, and prompting the profit-driven to care about it.  So this is a step in the right direction.  Give the market what it needs to do the right thing for now, eh?  Plus it just makes me happy when a government plans to have the money it spends.  Should be interesting to see how Congress actually sets up the carbon market.  Here’s a bit more from the NYT Green Inc. column.

Then, some of my plotting this week paid off!  I’d been asked to review a new eco-thriller, Freezing Point by Karen Dionne, and it came in the mail today. According to the blurb, the main characters are a well-intentioned environmental activist, a declared eco-terrorist, and an apocalyptic horror from deep within the ice: promising! I also got a little Freezing Point-themed natural lip gloss thing with it, which was a nice touch.  See, full disclosure, so you can decide for yourself if the lip gloss prejudices me to like the book (it does, but I read a paragraph in the middle and I think I’d like it by itself anyway).

On to Friday…

(P.S. As I was finishing this up, V. came by with more medication from The Dairy Godmother– gingersnaps and strawberry-rhubarb cobbler with custard.  Take that, head cold!)

Tiny Cardboard Kitchen: Now With Links

Here’s the model so far:

kitchen 1

See, I drew a plan for it and everything.  The purple thing is the herb box under the window by the sink, which you have to imagine to the right of that counter top, and the compost bin (I’ll make it green) is going to the right of the sink.  Here’s some of the pieces set up on the plan:

kitchen plan

The squares in the middle there are the column supports (why, yes, I do have Corinthian columns in my kitchen), and to the right you can pick out the frame for the greenhouse, I hope!  On the left is a color study (scribble).  Considering the foamboard piles I’ve turned in before, I’m pretty proud of this kitchen so far.  I’ll show you the finished product in a couple days (just got the metal sheets for the fixtures tonight!).

I’ve actually been busy for this blog during the break- brainstorming on some environmental events for Alexandria (maybe news on that end soon!?), and plotting in general.  Let’s ease back in with some links, though, shall we?

This morning, the satellite to monitor international carbon outputs failed massively and utterly, in the way that only rocketry really can.  The satellite was supposed to aid international efforts to regulate carbon outputs by objective measurement- now, beyond figuring out what went wrong, the question is, try this one again with spare parts (without the explosion parts), or push it back to develop a new and better one?

The rainforest is growing back in some places, prompting debate on the environmental virtues of new vs old forests.

Germany just opened their new Antarctic Research Station.  It’s got a wicked stilt design to keep it all from sinking into the snow, and some pretty impressive waste management systems to keep the pole all pristine.

Our national electricity grid is currently regulated by the states?  Oh dear, no wonder it’s a bit outdated.  The Fed is finally thinking about taking that over to make a national smart grid to better distribute energy to everyone, from everywhere.  I’m a fan in general (energy is a national concern), but any states’-rights people want to try and make a case against this idea?

The NYT style section thinks it’s trendy to keep worms in your kitchen.  This could possibly be hard and smelly, they note.

And yes, I’ve failed to set a goal for this month, with five days left.  But I biked, and there was a little local action, and the compost and garden got some much-needed attention, so I can’t feel too guilty about that.  I’ll lay off until March.

Busy Week and Vegetarian Insight

I’m planning and building a tiny kitchen for a class assigment this Saturday.  Also, V’s apartment is soaked with very gross stuff and they’ve knocked out a couple of his walls to find out where it came from, so add that to the hectic.  So pardon the slow posting while I draw and help V move stuff around- and ust know that my kitchen has a built-in compost pile, greenhouse, and herb gaden, so I am with you all in spirit.  Maybe I’ll post some pictures when I’m done with the model?

And yes, I realize I am leaving you hanging, without a monthly goal, but right now the goal is to survive the week.  Plus I was all excted about gardening then it got cold again, so I’m just being stubborn and not wanting to do anything but that this month.  I’ve overwatered my houseplants to compensate.

As for the vegetarian hook- I was exclaiming with a vegetarian friend over the bizarreness of this report on how scientists at the Antarctic research station no longer eat penguin breasts for dinner.  No longer!  Thank goodness that madness has stopped!  Seriously, how do you look at a penguin and think for even a second that they could be tasty!  They’re so adorable and squawky, how can you not be so amused and happy with them that you have no chance to consider them with a nice mustard sauce?

My wise friend then pointed out that, as a moral vegetarian, she looks at every animal and thinks that.  This gave me pause, because only penguins evoke this reaction in me.  Not that I love meat entirely and wholly, but at some point, I’m going to look at an animal and wonder how it tastes, and if it’s offered in a legal or at least safe fashion, I’ll have a try.  But not penguins.  Now, why are we wired so differently?  Her comment was a big insight for me into how different my world view would have to be for me to be a happy vegetarian.

Nonetheless, I am considering some sort of flying bargain- I get to fly, guilt-free with offsets, if I eat vegetarian for some specified amount.  I’m not saying this negates my carbon from flying or absolves me from planetal destruction, but it’s a way to leverage my guilt to make one good change.  Hum.  Maybe.

P.S. Argh so sad.

Organic Wine and Chocolate Tasting

These notes are compiled over several evenings of eating.  V and a great friend (she comments as “hater”, because she is very sweet) helped me out with the tastings- no, mom, I did not drink four bottles of wine myself this week, it’s cool.  Here is:


Red Truck Petite Syrah, 2006 (CA, $10.99) at Whole Foods)- Spicy and fruity, nicely drinkable on it’s own.

Yellow and Blue Malbec Mendoza, 2007 (Argentina, 11.99 for a liter at Whole Foods, as opposed to normal 750ml bottle)- Fairly typical red wine. Clean berryish flavor, but nothing too exciting.  Better with food. Comes in a Tetra Pack.

Natura Carmenere, 2007 (Chile, $10ish at Shoppers in Potomac Yard)- Dark and deep and Plummy, and spicy at the end.  “Unassuming”, according to my second tasting partner- it’s not overtly fancy, but it is quality.  “Would probably go well with chocolate…oh wait…” she continued.

Orleans Hill Cote Zero, 2007 (CA, $10ish at Shopper in Potomac Yard)- Blegh.  Unsatisfying mouthful, sharp aftertaste.  Perhaps this bottle has been skunked already?  But it doesn’t taste musty or completely wrong, just sour.  Suitable for mulling, perhaps.

Of those, the Natura Carmenere is the classiest, and the Red Truck was the spiciest.  Off the top of my head, the Vida Organica Malbec at Whole Foods is pretty good, and the Rabbit something Cabernet Sauvignon in a Tetra Pack at MOM’s on Mt. Vernon is quite solid.


Divine 70% Dark (Fair Trade): Very creamy with a slightly chocolate powder finish.  Brings out the cherry flavor in the Natura Camenere.  Definitely our favorite.

Green and Black’s 70% Dark (organic) : Slightly oily, bitter.  It’s not bad, per say.  Maybe we shouldn’t have had the one we really liked first.

Equal Exchange 71% Dark (Fair Trade and Organic AND Kosher)- Unannounced raspberryesque taste.  I would have appreciated it if I had been expecting it.  Without a warning, it was disturbing.  Slightly oily, powdery finish.

Whole Food 365 Brand Organic- Tasted a lot like the Equal Exchange, but creamier and sweet, with a little, entirely pleasing raspberry at the end, wand less oil in the finish.  So, like the EE, but a lot better.  Top 3, depending on how you like surprise raspberry.

Vivani 72% Dark (Organic)-  Good.  Very balanced.  Not exquisite.  Top 3, though.

If you’d like some other V-day advice, try the post I wrote last year– I re-read it, and I still heartily agree with it.

Much Love, call your grandma, and have a great weekend!

The One On The Bike, Moaning “Sooooooo Coooooooold”

Positive:  It was so nice this morning, with the sun and the breezes.

Negative: At some point after dark it dropped like 20 degrees and the breeze turned to wind, painful eye-scraping wind.  Gym shorts are irrelevant against cold and wind.  Pants are necessary.

Positive:  The cold sure numbed all those sore bits right up.

So I get a warm shower before I head out to get some more organic wine for that V-day tasting business…

Run Into Me? Please Don’t

Have I biked around enough to earn whining rights yet?  My rear hurts and I need to share, so I’ll chance it:

I had forgotten precisely how awkward sitting on bike seats is.  All that drainage work on Commonwealth last fall?  I hit all of the resulting cracks and potholes on the way home tonight.  And the batteries in my headlight had died after a few months hidden on a shelf (hidden so well it took me 30 min to find them this morning).  Waaaaah, life is so hard.

But gosh it’s beautiful weather to ride around in!  Here’s hoping my rear goes numb soon, so I can enjoy it all.

Pants Thrift

After some quality time at the Salvation Army on Little River Monday, I finally have pants.  It is a glorious feeling.

new pants

I also found a sweater that is covered with alpaca, and also probably made from alpaca.

alpaca sweater

I will wear it and dream of the day I have my own alpaca farm.

I also found: some stripy shirts appropriate for impending spring; a green fleece for me with elastic cuffs to keep me warm on the bike; a thin black fleece for V (he’s really into layering); an orange sweater that I might wear, or maybe it will fit V, or I will make it into something else; a couple of skirts; and a large green thing that might be a dress.  Not pictured are a necklace for me and one for a friend.  Big album of all this is here.

purple and green skirtsgreen dressstripy shirtsorange sweaterblack and green fleece

Let’s Pretend This Was A Learning Experience

Today I took my first good look at my former garden in months.  I covered it with some leaves last summer, to keep the soil um…clean?  warm?  I don’t know, I have no idea what I’m doing.

A bunch of my pots exploded after water caught inside them iced, there are leaves everywhere, and everything’s dead but the rosemary.

broken swan pot

Sigh, so sad.

I suspect also the hydrangeas are just hibernating, because I will miss them if I don’t think so.  I have a lot of cleaning up and gluing together and planning to do to try this gardening thing again.  I better start with some introspection, though, since I don’t think I was very successful at continuity last year.  By that, I mean I got distracted a lot and my food died.  But, let’s pretend I drew a few useful lessons beyond “pay attention”.

1) Pay attention.  Gardens are everyday things, both to keep track of what’s growing, what needs to be planted, what’s ready to be harvested, and who needs water or more sun or whatever.  As a corollary, 1A) Plants mature at their own pace, not yours.  Especially if you have no idea what you’re doing, and haven’t tracked the growing season and conditions and such- your salad greens could be ready ANY DAY and if you forget about them, or don’t want a salad that day, too bad.  In conclusion, I should probably ask someone who knows better what things look like when they’re ready to eat.  I guess I expect my tomatoes and spinach to keep growing bigger until they send me an email or something.  (“Re: Harvest me!”)

2) Make sure the pots drain.  Otherwise rain will drown your food and/or flowers.

3) I would like more flowers.  I very much enjoy flowers.  I should grow more of them.

4) Protect your plants from animals, because opossums are horrible garden thieves, and they are all over the suburbs here.  Netting is a good start?  I don’t know.  Opossums are crafty, they could probably get through nets.

5) If you have compost, use it.

Pretty sure that’s it from last year.  After I clean up, and it’s reliably above 40 degrees at night, I look forward to a successful and salad-green filled spring.

Day Off

Good thing I goofed off this morning, because the boss gave us the day off on the basis of sunshine.  I took my bike ride anyway (the gears and brakes survived the snow and cold, though remind me to check brakes before I get on that hill down Mt. Ida to Commonwealth next time).  My tires could use some air, it would appear.

Now, on to the Salvation Army, to obtain pants, and perhaps a small table.  I had another only-pair-of-jeans-rip debacle this winter (will she finally learn this year, and obtain more than one pair of nicely-fitting pants?  stay tuned to find out!), and substituted three pairs of poorly fitting, ludicrous pants from a rushed weekend visit to a Unique.  I’ve been gritting my teeth and wearing them since, but today, that changes.

The weather is tempting me to pay attention to my garden, also.  Hm.

Oh, and my passport came today!  Way to be early, State Department.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Progress: Traveling, Cleaning Out

I got a passport in January.  Really, personal friends, I did, remember how I’ve been planning to do that for two years, and how I promise to do it every three months ‘for real this time’?  I did it, and I have the paperwork to show for it, and in three weeks I can hop on a plane going anywhere in the world and SPEW CARBON ALL OVER YOU MUAHAHAHAHA.

I am conflicted about that.  I am certain that I want to get out and see the world, and I’m certain that, for my time and resources, airplanes are the most practical methods of transport to a bunch of places, but I’m also certain that airplane rides spew a bunch more greenhouse gases than I’d otherwise be comfy using.

Now, I don’t travel for business (not for lack of wanting, I’m just in the wrong business right now).  And I’m not wealthy, just very ok, so I can’t afford to jet about more than once or twice a year.  I certainly have other spending priorities that will limit my self-financed travels.  I’m not going to be spending all my weekends in Puerto Rico or anything like that.  But V and I want to go visit his family in Norway, and I’d like to go to a friend’s wedding in Oregon, and I didn’t spend 7 years studying Russia with the intention of never visiting there again.  Plus how else will I explore Byzantium, and meet Czech poets, and I want to smell India, and after we visit the Norwegian family we’ll have to visit the Colombian family, and Brazil always sounded nice, and so on.  Oh, then I want to learn to fly myself, because I want to be a pilot even more than I want to ride a motorcycle, and I think if I promise to give up the latter my loved ones will be so grateful I’m not going to kill myself that they’ll support the pilot’s license whole-heartedly.  See, I’ve got dreams.

I should feel guilty about this.  No Impact Man and his commenters certainly have a lot to say about limiting plane trips, and I respect their opinions.  One plane ride is a year of driving, carbon emissions are more harmful higher up in the atmosphere, if everybody in the world flew places we’d be living in The Day After Tomorrow, considering doing that much planet damage just to make yourself happy means you’re a bad environmentalist, etc.  And carbon offsets don’t count.

I dig that.  That’s fine.  But it doesn’t make me think only ever going as far as my hybrid can take me ever is a viable solution.   Flying is occasionally the only way for me to get places I want to go, and until there’s a better way, that’s the one I’ll use.  All that remains is trying to compensate somewhere else for those carbon emissions, and in the interests of that, I’m gonna look into offset or carbon reduction products later, and bike to work now.

As for the cleaning out, both my closet and V’s closet look totally awesome now, and the Salvation Army and Goodwill have many new wares to sell.  I’ll think of a new monthly thing in the next few days.

Have a good Monday!

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