Saturday, September 30, 2006

Book: Choose to Reuse

Here's a great book (acquired the pic from but you should always see if your local bookstore has it, first) to get a handle on the issues and solutions to the items you use everyday. This struck my fancy while perusing Choose to Reuse: Two-way envelopes. Netflix does something like this out of necessity, but you still have to tear off that annoying flap and throw it away. Sheppard has just such an envelope, called the Boomerang which they say uses 25% less paper than normal mailing options for, say, billing.

Building your own sand castle

I read this article in Mother Earth News awhile back (and I can't find the exact article in their online archives but they have a lot of great green building articles) about sustainable, cheap housing made from sandbags. This notion stuck with me and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Some friends of ours have a beautiful piece of property outside the city where we live, and they've been saving for a few years to build a permanent house on the land. Well, they finally concluded that the price of materials was just going to be too high, and so they've decided to put work into renovating their double-wide and putting in a swimming pool. It was an okay compromise for them, but it makes me frustrated that these people -- good, hardworking people -- cannot afford to build a permanent structure for themselves and their two children.
Then, yesterday I was IM'ing with a friend in NYC who is set to retire, move into the country with her partner, and build a home. I half-jokingly suggested that they build out of sandbags, and she said, "I'm not living in sand!" and that was that. But I got to thinking about it later and so here is what I've come up with on the subject and let you, the reader, decide:

Here is a great first article in Architecture Week about the pheonom, and talks about Nader Khalili, the architect who is "weaning the world off of two-by-fours, steel, and concrete."

Sean Sand's Papercrete House is an entirely different way of looking at recycled building materials. We think of recycling old houses and maybe using a good looking window or door, or old wood floors that are still in good condition, but Sean Sand is using an ancient building technique by combining cement and sand with things like newspapers and magazines: "'Glossy' magazines work fine -- in fact, they are preferred, because the "slick" magazine paper contains clay, which is beneficial to the mix." Yeah, man!

Last but not least is the quintessential website to go to get an overall impression of the craft of Green Homebuilding and all the many mutations and projects done by others, books written about it, and pictures galore (and where the one for this entry comes from).

It's thrilling, and if I were a more goal-oriented person I would buy up what cheap real estate is left in this part of the world and build a whole eco-community! Could you imagine a subdivision made entirely of adobe sandbag houses, each with their own little front yard vegetable garden? A patchouli-fragranced paradise, I say!

All Things Biodiesel

All Things Biodiesel

Just saw this on Blogger and thought this is something to blog quickly about on my way to blog about other things. This is pretty facinating stuff -- Eric Bowen, the creator of All Things Biodiesel, is an investment banker for the biodiesel industry as well as being the president of a SanFrancisco-based biodiesel cooperative ( Of note is a letter to the California Air Resources Board that basically outlines the fundamental reasons why biodiesel is a good alternative fuel. While I'm still wary of biodiesel as the silver bullet (or one of many silver bullets) to our current oil woes, I think that people like Mr. Bowen are searching for ways to help the environment, our people, and the economy in honest and honorable ways.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Paper, Plastic, Cloth, Or Nothing?

I've been trying to go to cloth shopping bags at the store which really wows the bag boys and girls who fumble to hold the darn things open and stuff them with my groceries. The manufacturers of plastic grocery bags make it so, so easy to use them at the checkout lane that you can see the look of consternation that crosses their faces when presented with a saggy stack of canvas bags (which the store chain I shop at sells, by the way). Lately, however, I've been forgetting the bags altogether when I enter the grocery store and at first I resigned myself to getting the plastic bags but then I had an epiphany: Why not say "no" to bagging? So, I've been using this strategy when I forget the cloth bags and it's been working. The bag people seem a little thrown when I ask them to just put the items back in the cart as-is, but hey, they should be thanking me for not having to hassle with any bagging of any sort! The trouble comes when I have a hand basket and ask them to just put the items back in after they've been scanned. The cashier is all like, "you want to take the basket out of the store?" I have to reassure them that I will bring the basket back after placing the items in my car. We've been so acculturated to bring only the wheeled carts out of the store.



A fellow Blogspot blog and one that Delicious G would cotton to: These are folks who made a compact to not buy anything new. I'm still reading it and am not entirely sure if they've made this compact for a year or if it's a forever thing. It's cool though, so give a read (even if they've been slack since June) and think a little bit about the implications of not buying any new crap for a WHOLE FREAKIN' YEAR! Yow.

Will update on these guys sometime soon when I have a better handle on them.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Ride Along Saga

Hoping to pick up more on the blogging -- not sure how, but am taking a quick stab at it while the old man and Dude Junior are out on GNO (Guys Night Out). We bought a ride-along (this one, from, in fact) for my bike since our son has now almost reached the weight limit for the bike carrier. I put it together and hooked it up and me and the boy took a spin on it down our street. This lasted for about 90 yards before I heard horrified whimpering from the back. We walked back to the house and DJ told me that he didn't like the fact that it didn't have training wheels and was too wobbly without them. I had read this same complaint from people who had bought this item, but we're trying to make a go of riding to campus instead of taking the car. So, I dutifully bought a pair of training wheels and put them on last night. It was a busy day today so we didn't have a chance to try out the new set up, but I ended up taking a short ride on it after the boys had gone, just to see how it would work. The training wheels, hard plastic, make a terrible racket on the pavement but I kept going. Riding on the path beside the park I lost one of the wheels, put it back on, and then lost it again a few yards later. Put the wheel in my bag and turned around to go home. The ride along is a lot more stable with the wheels and if I tighten the darn things properly maybe they'll stay the heck on. Next, we'll try a ride with DJ actually on it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Who knew a book about natural dyes would be a fascinating read?

You can tell I have been up to my ears in work lately. One thing I have been doing is getting material together for more posts, but have decided to not do too many news-y type posts because of my trouble with copyrights for articles that I want to link to. Anyway, I've been reading this book loaned by a new friend I made at the library where I work who's really into weaving and knitting, and spinning....gah, it's too tiring to laundry-list all of the things she knows how to do so let's just say she's deeply obsessed with this stuff. Here's the book at left, and you'd think that a book about growing plants to use as dyes and textiles would be pretty mind-numbingly boring, but it isn't! This falls under the "What I would do if I had limitless amounts of time and unlimited resources." So, it's a little bit insane to even consider a garden with flax and yucca at this point when my summer garden totally tanked this year. But I really recommend this for those natural-crafts daydreamers like myself. And for those of you who live in tropical regions, did you know that you can use Spanish moss as a furniture and pillow stuffing? You have to wet it down and let it dry out into a disgusting mat of black fibers, but it's free stuffing if you know how to climb trees to get said Spanish moss.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Requiem for a Hunterweight

Whatever else you can say about the death of world renowned wildlife promoter/protector/pesterer Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, it was spectacularly weird.

A stingray barb? In the heart? From a 'ray he (suppposedly) WASN'T EVEN BOTHERING?!!

If ever there was a man I expected to meet his maker courtesy of a (an)

Annoyed Anaconda
Bothered Boa
Curmudgeonly Croc
Disturbed Devilfish
Exasperated Electric Eel
Flummoxed Funnel-Web Spider

Well, you get the picture, And I can't think of anything good for the letter "G."

Anyway, he was the guy who deserved to meet his end via a miscalculation or unexpected slip WHILE HE WAS DOING THE CRAZY FATE-TEMPTING CRAP WE ALL EXPECTED TO KILL HIM.

Not a random alarmed stingray deciding to pop its barb up like a damn cigarette lighter held aloft as Bon Jovi starts to play their heart-tugging "on the road" anthem, "Dead or Alive" at their recent Missouri state fair engagement.

And how does that work, anyway? Assuming Irwin wasn't, like, trying to stuff the stingray inside his wetsuit, is it even possible that the sudden barb-activation of a free-swimming stingray involves enough kinetic energy that it would be able to penetrate a man's chest as the ray swims past? Seems like the barb oughta just bounce off. Hmm, makes you wonder if there was a shadowy cabal of mafiosa, Cuban exiles and pissed-off, deadly Australian animals that plotted and planned to take out Irwin via an "angry, lone dasyatid."

And what kind of response do you suppose that ray is getting around the reef right about now? High-fives with slimy appendages of every description, free fish guts for life, and probably lots and lots of what passes for hot booty among the stingray community. Damn. "You go, boy! Or girl!" (Sorry, can't tell stingray gender).

We here at the AE household are keeping news of this tragedy from our four-year-old son, Dude Junior. He liked the Crocodile Hunter. And that's reason enough for me to mourn the passing of Steve Irwin.

I bet he's up there in Heaven right now, hogtying Lassie or something. Because only celebrity animals go to Heaven. The rest of 'em go to a sort of metaphysical state park, where they just go about their business as usual. Except they all have wings. And really bad dead people, like Josef Stalin and Roy Cohn and the guy who invented parking meters, get bussed there from Hell once a week to be mercilessly preyed up by all the animals. Even the bunnies. Especially the bunnies.

Because if you spent your entire existence as, like, a komodo dragon, getting to eat another hapless human isn't a big thrill. But if you were a bunny -- fluffy, helpless and delicious -- all you want from the afterlife is payback. The big payback. Just like James Brown described. HAAAAHNH! GOOD GAWD!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Extree! Extree! Read All About It! Saving the Environment is Now COOL!

The July 17, 2006 cover story for Newsweek is entitiled, "The Greening of America: From Politics to Lifestyle, Why Saving The Environment Is Suddenly Hot." The issue talks about different ways to "save" the environment since it's now apparently hot. Why does this suddently irk me? Isn't this the goal of this blog? To find out ways to be environmentally-friendly with your environment? Okay, here's what makes me so p-o'd about these types of articles: They always involve people with scads of dough to live "green." It's like the whole drop out and live simply phenomenon; the only people who can actually do this have already made their millions and are now retired at the tender age of 35. What about us schmoes who are eaking out an existance working doubles at McDonald's? Okay, I'm not working at McDonald's but I don't have 2400 smackers to lay down on recycled denim to insulate my renovated town house, as Mr. Adrian Grenier did. Okay, I don't live in a renovated town house, either.

Gee, this iss is almost 2 months old -- do you think saving the environment is still "in?"

Friday, September 01, 2006

Launch of an ariane-rocket from Kourou

The Most Underreported Science Story Ever

Okay, well, maybe not ever, but this peaked my Trek-nerd sensibilities: The European Space Agency (ESA) -- the europeans have their own space agency! Huh??? -- has announced that their first unmanned space module is due to crash-land on the moon this Sunday. The SMART-1 took 14 months to reach its target because they were using an ion thruster as its main propulsion into the orbit of the earth's moon. Little particles of ion atoms sent the tiny ship skittering into its orbit. There's something very peaceful about that image.

Here's another image of the SMART-1 on its launcher, the Ariane, as it awaits the go-ahead at the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. For updates on the SMART-1 and the ESA, go here.
What are you going to do after the economic holocaust?

An AP wire story a week or so ago gave a startling fact: Home sales have dropped by 4.3% since a dip over twice that size occurred in February. The once-tropical housing market is not just cooling off, it's coming to a hypothermic end.

A Market Watch story last week goes even further to say that we're really screwed. Nouriel Roubini, an economist and president of Roubini Global Economics, not only says the housing market is in a slump, but it's in "free fall" and again makes the prediction that the US will be in recession in 2007. He states on his blog, "I have also argued before that the effects of housing on US economic growth and the role of housing in tipping the US economy into a recession in early 2007 are more significant than the role that the tech sector bust in 2000 played in tipping the economy into a recession in 2001." This is gripping stuff, and comparing the two major McMansion builders to the "proverbial canary in the mine" does not bode well for the US.

So, after the economic holocaust I will probably sew clothes and repair bicycles.