Towse: views from the hill

July 1, 2009

The Uniform Project

Filed under: art,culture,shopshopshop — Towse @ 11:38 pm

The Uniform Project

Brilliant idea.

The Idea

Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade’s boudoir.

[via Teapots and Polka Dots]

April 29, 2009

"Batman wore those socks …"

Filed under: culture,video — Towse @ 10:13 pm

Batman Garage Sale with Adam West from Adam West

April 23, 2009

[LONG] Earth Day thoughts and The Stories of a Girl

Filed under: culture,environmentalism,life,San Francisco — Towse @ 4:11 pm

Sara Zarr blogged (in her blog, The Stories of a Girl) about a number of things yesterday. I was captured by her comment,

Earth Day. I don’t know how I feel about it, as a day, which mostly feels like yet another opportunity for capitalism to taint what should be common sense.

I remember the first Earth Day. 1970. A few months before Sara Zarr was born. Spring semester of my freshman year. We buried a new car (a Ford Maverick?) in the Quad at San Jose State during the Earth Day Survival Fair. Oh, we were root-toot-tooting greenies even back then.

Looking back, though, the green we are today wouldn’t even have been dreamed of back then. Sara went through some of the things she’s now doing (“a few of the major though easy things”) that help celebrate Earth Day year-round. Here’s my list of ten greenie things that are part and parcel of my life these days.

1) WATER Like Sara we don’t do bottled water — not at home, not in restaurants. (Well, if someone else is paying for the con-gas/frizzante at an event, I will certainly imbibe. My no-frizzante-at-restaurants is because I’m way frugal too … Why pay a restaurant for a marked-up bottle of water? Why buy water at the store? I appreciate restaurants that fizz their own water instead of bringing on the French or Italian bottled stuff.

Our local HetchHetchy water is fine water indeed. I understand that some other folks may not have tap water that tastes good. (I’ve been in Midland, TX. Reverse osmosis water is the ONLY way to go in that town.) But if you don’t live in Midland or some place with equally bad water, have you even considered tap (or as an office mate used to say, “sink”) water?

Sara doesn’t live in San Francisco these days, but where she is her tap water’s fine too. Are you missing out on drinking from the tap because it’s “sink water”?

We have a couple bottles of chilled water in the frig for (f’rex) when we’re going out for a walk on a hot day (to avoid getting so terribly thirsty that we break down and buy a bottle at the wharf). We refill our bottles. Again and again and …

We have a case of bottled water under the bed as part of our earthquake supplies.

That’s it.

2) BAGS: PLASTIC & OTHERWISE We reuse paper bags and packaging materials. And those peanuts &c. that show up in mailorder stuff that we can’t use? We give those to a friend who is slowly decluttering his house by selling stuff on eBay. We stuff clean plastic (which isn’t recyclable with the city recycle program in this town) into a large plastic bag and when the bag’s full, take it down to Safeway, which does, still, recycle plastic. We save the larger grocery-sized plastic bags to line the wastebasket in the kitchen.

We have cloth bags (and, for Trader Joe’s, paper bags) for shopping. Most of the cloth bags are from conferences: Bouchercon, AAAS, LCC. We have HUGE STURDY IKEA BAGS that we bought for $0.59-$0.99 each (they dropped the price and we bought two more) which we use to haul stuff in from the car down the stairs and up to the front door when we take the car to Costco or Trader Joe’s and buy in bulk. We also use them to haul stuff UP! so we have a couple bags on either end. We have had these bags now for years and they carry a ton of stuff without wearing out or ripping at the seams.

2a) I wrap presents in Sunday comics. Did you know that you can cut long strips of comics (or any wrapping paper, really) and curl the strips with a knife/scissors edge to make ribbony attachments that MATCH!! the wrapping paper? I wrap packages for mailing in paper bags, deconstructed at the seams and turned inside out.

3) RECYCLE We recycle newspaper, magazines, cardboard, flattened boxes, clean paper items, bottles and cans, plastic bottles, &c. We stash the recycle stuffs in boxes and on the day before the twice-a-week pickup, we transfer them to paper grocery bags and carry them up to the nearest street and leave them in a recycle bin there for pickup. We empty the bags that hold bottles/cans into the bin and bring the bags back for re-use. The bags holding magazines/newspapers, we leave in the bin.

4) GREENCYCLE San Francisco has a wonderful compost program — green bins or, as we call it, Greencycle. What can you put in the green bin for composting? All food scraps, food-soiled paper, garden clippings and cuttings, pizza boxes, paper milk cartons, tea bags, coffee filters, banana peels, food-soiled paper napkins, wooden crates, tree trimmings, sawdust. Oh, the list goes on. Fish bones, lobster and crab shells, oyster shells, bones, wine corks.

The only things that shouldn’t go in the green cart are (1) things that are already recycled in the blue bin: newspaper, clean paper items, bottles and cans, empty spray cans, aluminum foil, plastic bottles, tubs and lids, &c. and (2) things that belong in the real garbage:

* Styrofoam
* plastic bags
* diapers
* kitty litter or animal feces
* rocks, stones, or dirt
* &c.

How hard is this? Well, for us, we have to make more effort than someone living in a SFH with curbside pickup. Where we are, the City will not pick up recycle or compost. A bunch of greeny neighbors FINALLY arranged for the City to pick up recycle if we carry it up to the nearest street and tuck it down on the first landing. (The neighbors on either side of the steps complained if we put the recycle bin on the sidewalk next to their buildings.) Greencycle, though, is out of the question at that spot.

Our Greencycle effort goes thusly. We have a large glass casserole dish on the counter that gets the stuff that would go into the green bin, if we only had a green bin. When the dish gets full (or at the end of the day), we transfer the contents to a large, lidded, metal menudo pot (lined with a compostable bag), which sits over in the corner of the kitchen.

When that bag gets full (or in four days, whichever is sooner, because the compostable bag begins to compost at that point), we put the bag into a larger plastic bag and take it out and drop it sans plastic bag in a green bin that we know of that’s on our way out-of-town or over to Costco or somewhere else that we’d be heading anyway. I suppose we could find a neighbor with a green bin (Hey! I may know just the one!) who lives within a quarter mile who would let us drop the Greencycle in her bin.

Greencycle is so very cool. I wish everyone used it.

As the article linked above says,

San Francisco’s garbage and recycling companies are leading the way in producing a high-quality, boutique compost tailored for Bay Area growers, experts say. In one year, 105,000 tons of food scraps and yard trimmings – 404 tons each weekday – get turned into 20,000 tons of compost for 10,000 acres.

Greencycle recycles 105,000 TONS of food scraps and yard trimmings a year! How cool is that?

5) PACKAGING AND PLASTIC WRAP We don’t buy many things that are in non-recyclable packaging. We still eat meat, so there are usually styrofoam trays (why?) to dispose of and the plastic wrap around them. Vegetables go into plastic bags before purchase, but if you rinse them out and dry them, the plastic bags recycle. Cheese is wrapped in plastic. Bulk rice comes in tough plastic bags. But we don’t buy a lot of bagged, canned and bottled stuff, and what we do is usually in recyclable containers or something that can be Greencycle’d.

5a) When we heat things in the microwave, we tend to either use dishes with glass lids or put the food on a plate and cover the food with an inverted glass casserole dish from the cupboard. (We have several sizes.) The steam stays in. There’s no plastic wrap to deal with. You can see through the glass dish to see how things are progressing. Wash the casserole dish afterwards. Reuse.

5b) All in all we probably have half a grocery bag of “garbage” a week. If that. (And the “garbage” bag is a plastic grocery bag from Chinatown now that the majors aren’t allowed to give out plastic bags in our fair ville.)

6) WALK & PUBLIC TRANSIT We don’t drive much. His nibs drives to work in the south bay once a week. Unfortunately, even though his company is now near a train station, the logistics are impossible for him to take the train to work unless he got out of here soon after 5A to catch the bus that would take him to the train station. Car it is. We also take the car when we’re going to Costco or if we’re planning to pick up A LOT of wine, &c. at Trader Joe’s. Other than that we walk or take public transit. The nearest Trader Joe’s is a mile each way. Coming back up hill with a bag or two of groceries each is doable. (We bring our own bags, ‘natch.) We walk to dinner or down to the library or out. We do our veggie shopping in Chinatown and pickup our sweetbreads at Little City and walk (uphill) home. If we’re going out to dinner somewhere too far to walk, we take public transit. We’ve taken one cab ride since we started living here and that was shared with fellow diners after a Subculture Dining experience that ended too late. The J-Church had stopped running. Really.

We currently have two cars (with — ouch! — the leased parking fees they incur). Eventually, when the older younger guy gets his license, he’s due to get the 2000 Honda and we’ll be down to the 2005 Mini Cooper. After his nibs stops working in the south bay altogether, we’ll probably go carshare. My Mini Cooper consistently gets about 33 MPG. When we drove down to my cousin’s memorial service and back, it got 36MPG, iirc.

We don’t belong to a gym. The walking and the stairs and the carrying of groceries is pretty good exercise.

6) ELECTRONICS AND PAINT San Francisco has great hazardous waste dropoff/recycling. San Francisco residents can drop off household hazardous waste at the Tunnel Avenue transfer facility. Hazardous wastes accepted include batteries (large and small), paint, chemicals, motor oil, used oil filters, fluorescent bulbs, antifreeze, &c. Norcal tries to reuse as much of the “hazardous waste” as possible. Collected latex paint, for example, is available free to anyone who stops by (sometimes remixed, sometimes as donated) in large buckets. Customers can drop off up to 30 electronic items per month for free if they are delivered separate from any other garbage. You don’t need to wait for the special “hazardous waste” days and hours. If all you are dropping off is electronic items, you can bypass the line of people waiting to use the public dump facility.

If you have BIG ITEMS that need pickup, you make arrangements with NorCal and they’ll pick them up. When we got rid of the BULKY air conditioner that had been here when we bought the place (which was really pretty useless and took up space), we called NorCal and they sent someone out to pick it up. We paid extra to have him carry it down from our top floor, down our stairs and up the path/stairs to the street. We’re no fools. The extra charge was well worth it.

7) WATER CONSUMPTION We watch water use. Short showers. Large loads of laundry. Handwash/air-dry dishes because we really don’t use enough to fill/run the dishwasher even every other day and if you don’t run it that often the kitchen stinks, we’ve found. We hardly ever drop things at the drycleaner. When we do, we’ve collected a batch over a while and take it all in at one time, saving the hassle of dropoff and pickup.

8) ENERGY We have photovoltaic cells on the roof with battery backup. Our meter runs backwards. The solar covers about half our use, which leaves us with a minimal power bill. No A/C. Turn off the lights. No TV. We use sweaters and sweatshirts on colder days rather than cranking up the (gas) heat. We’re using compact fluorescent light bulbs, even though there are still questions how (years down the road) CFLs will be disposed of.

9) MAGAZINE RECYCLE AND ALTERNATIVES We just joined the Mechanics Institute Library downtown. I plan to give up most of our magazine subscriptions and save money and save the paper that then needs to be recycled by reading most of my magazines, and ones I don’t currently subscribe to, there. Yes, I know. Magazines are having tough times. My subscriptions weren’t enough to sustain them anyway.

10) THRIFT STORES, GOODWILL, FLEA MARKETS, BARTER I love thrift stores. Buy a dress or shirt or whatever that someone else bought first and you’re saving all the associated construction/manufacturing costs that went into the original product. The current issue of San Francisco Magazine interviews Cris Zander of Cris, consignment boutique at 2056 Polk St., which has been in business for decades. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been there, although I might take a peek in to see if the prices are way over my wallet.)

The writer asked Cris about her ladies-who-lunch clientele who use her boutique to sell the clothes they don’t plan to wear anymore and (perhaps) pick up alternatives. She quoted one of her clients who wondered why people worried about buying “used” clothes: “All of the clothes in my closet are used,” the client said.

Exactly, I thought. But then I always got plenty of hand-me-downs from my three-years-older sister while I was growing up.

                                                ***

I look at the list I just made and think, yeah, fine, but you can do better than that. If we were vegetarian, we’d avoid all the expenses associated with raising meat. We could be more conscientious with buying locally. We still have two cars, fer pete’s sake, but that will change. We have plants that are purely ornamental. Bottles and cans don’t recycle easily as people would like to think. There’s a glut on newsprint and cardboard because the cheap trinket folks are making fewer cheap trinkets in this downturn and don’t need as much packaging. And what really happens to the plastic bags we take to Safeway?

And, as always when I buy something (or even pick it up free), do I really need that? Do I need that book? Do I need that stuff I picked up at Bonham’s/Butterfield yesterday? Can I cut back?

Sure.

March 23, 2009

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

Filed under: culture,science,video — Towse @ 4:46 pm

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is available for free! at Hulu.

In 1980, the landmark series Cosmos premiered on public television. Since then, it is estimated that more than a billion people around the planet have seen it. Cosmos chronicles the evolution of the planet and efforts to find our place in the universe. Each of the 13 episodes focuses on a specific aspect of the nature of life, consciousness, the universe and time. Topics include the origin of life on Earth (and perhaps elsewhere), the nature of consciousness, and the birth and death of stars. When it first aired, the series catapulted creator and host Carl Sagan to the status of pop culture icon and opened countless minds to the power of science and the possibility of life on other worlds.

[via JDRoth's twitterfeed]

March 3, 2009

Social isolation a significant health issue

Filed under: culture,life,news — Towse @ 8:11 pm

So I open my Chron yesterday to find this article: Social isolation a significant health issue by Katherine Seligman.

I promised yesterday to blog about why the article’s focus annoyed me so much.

They could have more friends than ever online but, on average, Americans have fewer intimates to confide in than they did a decade ago, according to one study. Another found that 20 percent of all individuals are, at any given time, unhappy because of social isolation, according to University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo. And, frankly, they’d rather not talk about it.

i.e. “friends online” aren’t considered fodder for intimate confidences.

The article also points out that 80% of people are not feeling socially isolated, but that doesn’t sell books. (I doubt their 20% figure anyway.)

The article goes on to quote Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist who teaches at Harvard Medical School and co-authored “The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century.” “People are so embarrassed about being lonely that no one admits it. Loneliness is stigmatized, even though everyone feels it at one time or another.”

Olds wrote the book with her husband, Dr. Richard Schwartz, because, she said, she wanted to bring loneliness “out of the closet.” The two were struck by findings from the General Social Survey (conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago), showing that people reported having fewer intimate friends in 2004 than they had in 1985. When asked how many people they could confide in, the average number declined over that same time period from three to two.

Why would three be better than two?

In 2004, almost a quarter of those surveyed said they had no one to discuss important matters with in the past six months; in 1985, only 7 percent were devoid of close confidantes.

Two separate issues [1) no one to disuss important matters with in the past six months, 2) devoid of close confidantes for a year]

I’d be interested re 1) in what the question text was. Was it, “Did you discuss important matters with a close personal friend in the past six months?” If so, what if there were no “important matters” to discuss with anyone? Does a “No” answer mean that you’re lonely?

Those who know me can see where I’m going here.

#1 The authors writing these books are obviously more comfortable with people around to talk things over with.

#2 The authors writing these books obviously don’t think that people can “talk things over” with online buddies. It’s F2F or on the phone or nothing at all, according to them.

So I read on

But humans are not wired to live alone, researchers say. The impulse for social connection – though it is stronger in some people than others – is rooted in the basic urge to survive. The need is so great, says Cacioppo, [John Cacioppo, whose research was mentioned at the beginning of the article and who has also! written a book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection] that it is reflected in our neural wiring. Most neuroscientists agree, he said, that it was the need to process social cues that led to the expansion of the cortical mantle of the brain.

In “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection,” which he co-authored last year, he wrote, “In other words, it was the need to deal with other people that, in large part, made us who and what we are today.”

Loneliness, Cacioppo explained in an interview, has more in common with hunger, thirst and pain than it does with mental illness. It signals that something is wrong and needs to be corrected.

and at about this point I twigged that Olds and Seligman and others who worry so much about loneliness and being alone are probably extroverts, eh?

See the Atlantic article Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch, to see what I mean. (DT recently reposted a link on his Facebook page, just in time for me to get my every-couple-years re-read of a great article.)

February 28, 2009

Schwarzenegger Declares California Drought Emergency

Filed under: California,culture,government,weather — Towse @ 10:54 pm

Schwarzenegger Declares California Drought Emergency

Some more rain is arriving tonight, if the weather mavens are to be believed, and carry over for a few days, but things aren’t looking good.

Step one: encourage farmers who suck up water to raise crops like cotton and rice to move their operations to places that are better suited for water-guzzling crops.

Step two: encourage folks who plant golf courses in deserts to transform them into something else and/or let the land lapse back into sand dunes.

Step three: see where steps one and two take you.

February 26, 2009

Playmobil Security Check Point

Filed under: culture,shopshopshop — Towse @ 8:47 pm

[via a Kelley Eskridge blog post]

Playmobil Security Check Point

Customer reviews take the cake.

e.g.
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said “that’s the worst security ever!”. But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.

February 25, 2009

Projects – Yuken Teruya Studio

Filed under: art,culture — Towse @ 7:34 am

Wonderful papercuts and other works from sustainable materials and everyday objects.

Projects – Yuken Teruya Studio

[via Sour Grapes' shared items in Google Reader]

February 6, 2009

20 Worst Foods of 2009 – 1. The Worst Food in America of 2009

Filed under: culture,food,health — Towse @ 2:25 am

20 Worst Foods of 2009 – 1. The Worst Food in America of 2009 (from Men’s Health)

Baskin Robbins Large Chocolate Oreo Shake
2,600 calories
135 g fat (59 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fats)
263 g sugars
1,700 mg sodium

We didn’t think anything could be worse than Baskin Robbins’ 2008 bombshell, the Heath Bar Shake. After all, it had more sugar (266 grams) than 20 bowls of Froot Loops, more calories (2,310) than 11 actual Heath Bars, and more ingredients (73) than you’ll find in most chemist labs.

Rather than coming to their senses and removing it from the menu, they did themselves one worse and introduced this caloric catastrophe. It’s soiled with more than a day’s worth of calories and three days worth of saturated fat, and, worst of all, usually takes less than 10 minutes to sip through a straw.

The Men’s Health article has twenty of the worst foods in America: worst salad, worst breakfast, worst burger, &c. (Hard to navigate, but interesting. …)

[via Sour Grapes' Google Reader]

December 26, 2008

Underage Facebook party busted

Filed under: culture,web2.0 — Towse @ 7:40 pm

Underage Facebook party busted

Remember what we say kids. Nothing is private on the internet. If you don’t want the cops to come to your house don’t post it on Facebook.

Parents, don’t let your children grow up to do stupid things and crow about it on Facebook.

But, oldkins can be clueless too. The husband of a woman in Sheffield, UK, murdered her after she posted on her Facebook page that she was leaving him. The husband of another woman, this one from Croydon, near London, murdered her after she changed her Facebook status to “single” a couple days after the husband moved out. Stabbed to death.

Both women were, obviously, married to unstable, abusing men. Both were murdered after they unthinkingly used Facebook to tell the world they were (or soon would be) well-rid of their husbands. They must’ve already known what sort of creepoid jerks their husbands were and that they might react to the public exposure.

Watch what you post to Facebook, folks young and old. Word has a way of getting ’round.

Update: Keep your illegal/dumb stuff off YouTube too.

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