Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Public Transportation: The Sport of Kings

If you want to get royally frustrated (har, har), utilize the public transportation in a medium-sized city that has the infrastructure of, say, Mayberry. I grew up in a teeming metropolis where public transportation was the norm rather than the exception. Now, I'm living in a city where it's the exact opposite.

Anyway, so a couple of nights a week I'm on campus until about 7pm and rather than have the old man and DJ schlep all the way from home to pick me up in the Fit, I've been taking the bus home. And, of course, every time I take the bus it's raining or freezing. But I've been doing it.

The thing that really frustrates me is that the buses don't run that often, and run less often in the evening, so it takes about 3 times what my normal bike-time would be to get home. It might be okay for all you sleepy southerners to take 3 hrs to get home, but not this city-slicker!

I see a lot of frustrated people on the bus and this is why. Also, they moved the bus depot from the very convenient downtown location to this secluded outback behind the power plant, and at night it's kind of creepy. Unless you have Cory instructing you on where to get 50-dollar tattoos nearby, which I did. And mighty grateful was I for the information. And then, when you finally do get on the connecting bus, you have to wait 15 minutes while the bus driver takes a bathroom break -- c'mon! The bus driver can hold "it" to do one more run so I can get home at some reasonable hour. And the lady next to me says, "I'm ready to go..." and I'm like, "I feel ya."

I shouldn't complain, though -- in Gainesville, UF students and staff get to ride the bus for free. And on my route from the downtown depot they have the spiffy new buses with the second tier seating in the back, like they have at Disney. Cory and I had a good time talking about the new buses and he knew a lot about how they wash the buses and where the bus wash is, which is kind of fascinating because you never think about washing big things like buses.

I got the no-bikin' blues...

This has been a pretty frustrating semester, transportation-wise. Because of schedules I have not been able to ride my bike to campus. Biking DJ to school is still a non-issue; we can just barely get ourselves out the door in the morning to get him in on time. It's been kind of fun, though, because the old man comes along on the drive and sometimes has an amusing Scooby-Doo story to tell DJ on the way (his Shaggy Rogers imitation is quite eerie). But then sometimes, on the way, I see my former professor from the REL4936 class last semester, rain or shine, biking her daughter to school. It does remind me that there are at least a couple of days a week I could be picking DJ up from school with the bike.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Down to My Last Krishna Lunch

For those who don't live in Hoggtowne, Krishna Lunch is about as "Gainesville" an activity as you can hope to find, right up there with rootin' for the Fightin' Gators!

The Krishnas have been in Gainesville for many years and since 1971 have been serving the ubiquitous "Krishna Lunch" to starving college students on UF's Plaza of the Americas. Used to be, you could just go up there and get lunch and maybe you could give them, like, 50-cents, for an all-you-can-eat vegetarian extravaganza of karma-free victuals.

In the past few years, however, they pretty much demand a $3 donation for their food. As well they should -- people griped when they instituted the higher price but you get all-you-can-eat and drink for $3! Where else can you find a deal like that, especially on campus?

So, I buy the punch cards -- as noted above, you only save $1 dollar with the $20 card, but with the $30 card you get a whole free lunch. I bring my own lunch kit -- a rectangular tupperware container, a washcloth, and a fork from the house that I don't mind losing. They give you back 25-cents if you do this, but I always just put it back into the Krishna coffers. This is the only food venue in town that I have been bold enough to bring my own eating ware; it inspires me, however, to try to do this at other places.

I reported awhile back that I was going to go to McDonald's and demand a Happy Meal in a tupperware container and reusable cup. Of course I never got the nerve up enough to try that, but I think there are other places in town where I could broach the idea and not be looked at as a lunatic. An old hippie, maybe, but not a lunatic.

Oh, that mischievous little Krishna!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Update on Weaning from Deodorants and Shampoo, February

Well, I was reading Tracy of The Glom Shelter's post on her efforts at DIY health and beauty aids and realized that I am long overdue for the same.

Deodorants: I have had to end my use of the crystal deodorant because my underarms would break out in a terrible rash. In the beginning it was fine and amazing, because it worked, and then I had to stop because my body just said "no more." Tracy's suggestion to use a mixture of baking soda and corn starch has been a life-saver. I did use the beloved Old Spice once, after I finally admitted that I would no longer be able to use the crystal, but it just didn't have the same appeal after almost a year of living without it.

For Christmas, DG got me an all natural deodorant from Lush -- it's basically a lump of baking soda, but you rub it under your arms and it really, really works. So, I'll be using that for awhile because it's already, let's see, almost March and I've hardly made a dent in it.

Shampoos: I'm still using baking soda with a cider vinegar rinse, but have been supplementing that with another Christmas gift from DG, also from Lush, the shampoo bar. That will also last me about a year because it makes crazy suds from just a couple of rubs on the head.

National Wildlife Week

Contacted National Wildlife Federation again today to reiterate my request for more information about National Wildlife Week in the U.S. Here is my message:
Hello, I emailed about a week or so ago about what National Wildlife Week is and a little bit about the history of NWW or at least some resources I could go to for more information. I realize that with other responsibilities it might not be possible to get back to me right away. Please let me know if you received my last email and if you are working on an answer, are stumped, or just too busy right now to answer. Thank you very sincerely.
I also did the same with the Sierra Club. The national group has been slow in the past about getting back to me about membership issues, so I'm thinking this is more of the same and will wait another couple of days to hear back. Here is the email I sent them on 02/19/08:
Hi, I've been doing research on National Wildlife Week in the U.S. and have not really come up with much. I know they celebrate it annually in Canada, and President Clinton designated a week in April for NWW in 1997. Is there any national hoopla about it and I'm just missing it? Any places you can point me to for information would be appreciated. Just for disclosure's sake, I'm blogging about this right now and wanted to explore the issue a little more in depth. The link to the blog is in the sig line. Thanks for any help you can give.
So, if you've been following my more recent obsession with Environmentality at Disney,
where I discovered that Mr. Walt Disney himself was yelling about National Wildlife Week back in the 60's, you might be asking yourself, why is this such an issue?

This totally tops Earth Day, that's why! It's a whole week, after all. You could put all of these environmental causes like habitat destruction under one, big eco-umbrella and spend a whole week yelling about it like Mr. Disney.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Eco-Moms article in the NYT

When I saw my ever-elusive friend, Hil, over the weekend, she told me about a New York Times article on Eco-Moms. This is a woman who reads the NYT stem to stern every day, so she always has a relevant article to refer to someone. She has become, for me, The Friend of Record.

Is this the new manifestation of a mom demographic, like soccer moms and security moms? Or is it a genuine movement that will bring not only the attention of American politicians, but also real change in environmental policy?

The article really doesn't have anything new to say about moms who are environmentally conscious, and it kind of made some of the women involved seem kind of dumb -- towards the end of the article one mom relates being taken to task for all of the un-eco (in-eco? Dys-eco?) things around her home (the SUV in the driveway was a no-brainer for these task-takers). The woman being taken to task took it all with a grain of salt, but I'd be like, "back up, beyotch." And, of course, I'm never, never, like that with other moms...

If you think it's eco, but it's's Chiffon.

Got the "it's not nice to fool mother nature" Chiffon Margerine TV ad pic from Dan Threlkeld's Web Site
If you need a refresher, the ad is (of course) on YouTube.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Environmentality at Disney and National Wildlife Week

Okay, this is quite a paranoid day for me but you'd think, after hunting around on the WDW website like a caterpillar and then having actual contact with a human being from Environmental Initiatives at Disney that, in the course of all that, I would have found this website on the WDW company website, called Disney's Environmentality. No mention of it on the FAQ, the nice woman at Disney said 'boo' about it. But I found it, quite accidentally, while I was looking around the Disney corporate website. It has a nice little streaming video of ol' Walt in the early 60's talking about the concept of "conservation" for National Wildlife Week.

National Wildlife Week? A Google search found that National Wildlife Week is celebrated annually during the first or second week of Canada. Oh, and the Yukon.

So, Mr. Disney is talking about National Wildlife Week in the 1960's, and as you know, Disney Co. is about as American as Jambalaya and jazz, so where did NWW go? Here is an explanatory blurb from the Canadian Wildlife Federation:

NWW is celebrated each year during the week surrounding April 10th, the birthday of Jack Miner, one of the founders of Canada’s conservation movement. Proclaimed an act of Parliament in 1947, NWW is a time to celebrate Canada’s natural heritage and play an active role in conservation.

Obviously, if I'm finding all this stuff about the "Environmentality" at Disney on their website now, after screaming about it on the blog for months, I'm kind of a dunder-head to begin with, but now I'm finding out about a national "week" in the U.S. that I've never heard of before. Passing strange. I might have to employ my super journo-powers and investigate.

Jiminy Cricket is the spokestoon for Disney's Environmental Initiatives, har.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Cast Iron Skillet -- Nature's Teflon

Is it just me? Am I the only one who wants to crow about my cast iron pans? Years ago, I decided to experiment with cast iron skilletry and bought a small, 8-inch pan. It took me a long time to finally season it, mostly because I kept washing the darn thing with soap and water.

Recently it's finally clicked and I have pretty much stopped using my non-stick pans. Those things have always scared me, and they invariably get scratched and have to be thrown away. Why? Because the coating that makes them non-stick is highly toxic. Why would you want to cook with something that could kill you? Teflon? Kill you. Cast iron? Won't kill you.

The cast iron skillet is one of the wonders of the world, in my opinion. Here's a nifty page from the website What's Cooking America that talks about how to cook with and take care of your cast iron pans, as well as how to save cast iron pans that have fallen into rust and disrepair. It's says everything way better than I could.

Took the photo of cast iron pans from What's Cooking America

Seitan Redux; or, Alien Life Forms and the People Who Eat Them

Well, after a hearty, meaty breakfast, there's nothing I like better than to relax and mix up some completely vegan seitan. I put away the breakfast leftovers of local bacon, eggs and then some non local hash browns and biscuits made with non local flour, and then decided to make some non-local wheat meat. If you have every tried to make seitan, your experience might be like mine, which I chronicled here. It was tasty but a complete mess, and not what I recognized as seitan. This time I decided not to play around and got a box of Arrowhead Mills Vital Wheat Gluten and mixed up the smaller batch listed on the box.

Wow! What a difference. As soon as I dropped the vital wheat gluten into the pre-measured water it went like, "whomp" and completely congealed into one sound lump of wheat meat. I realized that adding the poultry seasoning would be a good idea, since it was starting to seize up like silly putty, and began working the seasoning as best I could into the lump. Then I sliced it up and threw the slices into the broth (made as per Vegan Planet). It's now simmering for the specified hour.

One tip -- do not let the seitan slices rest on one another while getting the broth stirred or whatever. The slices completely coalesced while I was stirring the broth and then had to slice the lump again. The slices did not look as pretty this second time. It was eerie, almost like the seitan was some kind of alien life form that reconstitutes when you try to slice it up or blow it up with missles, or something like that. But now I'm making myself paranoid, so I'll stop that line of thinking, now. And I'm going to peek in the pot, just to be on the safe side...

Yow! I just looked in the pot and it is a good thing I did -- the seitan had doubled in size and the broth level was dangerously low! No one told me that would happen! I put more water and tamari into the pot and that seems to have turned the tide on the seitan crisis. Will update when seitan is done cooking and can taste its seitan-y goodness.

Update: Just finished cooking the seitan and it is a little tougher than I expected. It also didn't have as much flavor as I would have liked. I probably didn't put enough poultry seasoning into the mix and the broth might not have been strong enough. Oh well. I will try doing different stuff with it over the course of the week for lunches and see what happens.

02/25/08 Update: The seitan is long-gone, but I wanted to say that about a week ago I found some old croutons lying around so I ground 'em up, breaded one of the last seitan cutlets, and then browned it in a skillet. It was pretty good! I sliced it up like a steak or chicken breast and the breading and the browning gave it some good flavor.

Locavore Sunday

Made the bacon from the IFAS Meat Processing Center for breakfast this morning. It was sooo good. And there was a lot of it for $3.50. Alongside the bacon I made scrambled eggs from the ones I got this week from the nice lady DG gets her eggs from. Those were the only local items, actually, so I can't claim that it was an entirely locally-produced breakfast. Oh well. It was really tasty, though.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tiny Texas Houses

During our need-a-bag romp this morning, DG told me about Tiny Texas Houses. The name is as it suggests -- they are tiny houses being built in Texas. Above is the 12' x 20' Victorian-style cottage. It is actually larger than some of their offerings. Here is a link to a page with just pictures and some explanation of their business.

And get this -- they use 95% recycled materials in the contruction -- the only stuff that's new is electric and plumbing.

How much space does someone need? That seems to be the question begging to be answered by these houses. Now, I can see a bed and breakfast buying up one or two of these to use as additional rooms to rent off the main house. But, could you see yourself living in one of these? I don't know if I could, but they sure are pretty darn cute.

DG and I got to talking about Tiny Texas Houses because I was sharing my wish/daydream for a writing shed in the backyard, for when I reach my dotage and DJ has left for college (and both will probably happen simultaneously). My idea was to have a simple shed with one or two walls made just from screen, and a loft for sleeping. There is, apparently, a Tiny Texas House that comes with a loft, and that would be perfect, but in the Florida weather I really need some screen to let a breeze in every now and then. Plus, I could install a solar attic fan to draw up air. DG's idea was to buy a plot of land and put 4 or 5 Tiny Texas Houses on the property, one for living, one for writing, one for guests, and one for parties. It would probably cost about the same as one McMansion (TTH's cost between 35-55k).

Friday, February 08, 2008

Meet and Greet For Your Meat*

Today was the day DG and I went to the IFAS Meat Processing Center, a.k.a. "the meat market on campus." DG has been there before so she was my native guide for this adventure. We both got a package of brats and I got bacon for Sunday breakfast. It was not cheaper than the supermarket or even Ward's, but at least you know where the meat is coming from. It's all wrapped up in nice, neat, little butcher paper packages with a price sticker, and they've got a counter in the front where a nice gentleman rings you up. I did not feel it appropriate to act like I just stepped out of the Fresh Market and ask if the cattle are "grass or grain fed." I felt that would sour my newly-formed alliance with IFAS Meat Processing. This is the type of information you get through a carefully nurtured relationship with a school of butchery. And there might be something on the website.

Anyway, I'll update on this post when we've actually eaten said brats or bacon.

Update: I had one of the bratwursts for lunch today. It tasted great, just not like a bratwurst. DG had already tried one of hers and reported to me in the morning that she thought it was good but couldn't understand all the hoopla about bratwursts and how it was different from sausage. Now I understand what she was talking about, because there really wasn't much of a difference between the brats from IFAS and regular ol' sausage. But it was still tasty. Sunday morning we cook up the bacon.

*with apologies to PETA for playing on the title of their film about factory farming, Meet your Meat.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Earth Hour, March 29, 2008, 8 pm

Holy cow! I've been meaning to blog about Earth Hour since I signed up for it, but of course have not done it until now -- and we've only got 52 DAYS, 8 HOURS, 30 MINUTES and some odd seconds!!! Gahhh!!!! I hate those countdown tickers...

Anyway, I signed up for Earth Hour because one of my Facebook compadres signed up for it -- that's kind of how these things happen, I've discovered, on Facebook. Someone takes the "80's and 90's Cartoon Trivia Quiz" and then you're checking their score and suddenly you're taking the "80's and 90's Cartoon Trivia Quiz" and comparing your scores with your Facebook friends and their Facebook Friends. And that's when you realize you completely suck at 80's and 90's cartoon trivia. Oh, and that you're also a complete dork.

Earth Hour is the brainchild of some Aussies "from down under" and was started when people in Syndey, Australia turned off their lights for one hour in March of 2007. Here's a blurb from their site:
On 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour. This massive collective effort reduced Sydney's energy consumption by 10.2% for one hour, which is the equivalent effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road for one hour.
Wow. Those are impressive stats for one, large city in Australia. But, can they pull those kinds of numbers off all over the world? Now that would be something. Earth Hour is somehow connected to World Wildlife Fund, but I'm not sure how. Hmm, maybe I should look at some press releases. a journalist!

All I've got to say is, remember the primrose path other Aussies have walked us down in the past -- or, do I need to remind everyone about Men at Work?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Farm fresh eggs and next, meat

I totally got the egg-hookup from DG! Oh yeah, we are now flush with chicken-fresh eggs for Sunday breakfast. Wahoo! Now I'm planning on going to the ag school's Friday meat market. I will definintely update on that experience!

Need-a-Bag? Project Update February

Note: Need-a-Bag? is a project to promote sustainable bagging at the Hwy 441 Alachua County Farmer's Market each Saturday morning. We supply resusable tote bags reclaimed from thrift stores and garage sales. Need-a-Bag? also utilizes old tank tops as tote bags by sewing up the bottoms (these are called t-totes). We invite you to read the other posts on the project by clicking the "Need-a-Bag? Project" label at the bottom of this post.

It was a little chilly this morning but not rainy, at least. In fact, it was a beautiful, sunny day. A gentleman told me about seeing some planetary alignment while I put bags on the chain-link fence. I haven't been watching Jack Horkheimer lately, so I am definitely in the dark about the planetary happety-haps of late and it was nice to get the after sunrise wrap-up.

The most recent event has been a young woman who has been selling tote bags with the Alachua County Farmer's Market label -- made from recycled fabrics! It is so awesome, the bags look really sturdy and big, and they're cheap at $4 a pop.