Friday, June 29, 2007

Wish List

Saw this post on Weird Asia News where this Chinese guy fitted his roof with empty beer bottles and hoses to make a solar heated shower for his family. I wonder how much my landlord would object to me hooking this up at my place. Guess it also has the added bonus of beer being a good hair conditioner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Patriot Bucks for All!

An interesting idea presented on NPR this morning as a way to help contain campaign financing: an ATM card for every voter with $25 dollars on it to spend on whichever candidate you wanted to. The total cost to the American public $3 billion dollars, but a fairer way to support presidential candidates and spread out how contributions are made. I think it would go a ways in relieving voter fatigue and get Americans back into caring about how the election process is run. I know personally I feel disinfranchised how the big candidates seem to cater only to those who can give the most money to their campaign. Read more about Yale professor Bruce Ackerman's program at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


A shameful thing for a hard core simplist to admit: I am a huge fan of Ikea. Been so for years. While most might think of it as disposible furniture, (and a cruel joke of engineering as most pieces are designed for self-assembly) I am happy to say my selected Ikea pieces are still in use, some after 10 years. I bought a wood frame couch 10 years ago, and I keep holding on to it like it's a family heirloom. The cushions have had to be dyed after a number of years (off white upholstery lost it round the turn of the century) but no one seemed to comment on the change, at least not to my face. And while the foam cushions may be a little worse for wear, I've worked hard for that ass groove and I'm not ready to give it up quite yet. So needless to say when mother arrived last week and offered to recreated the cushion covers I gladly ripped them off and sent her home with them in hopes of keeping this $200 couch alive for another 10 years.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Doc Review: "An Unreasonable Man" (2006)

While it may be overstating a bit to say that without Ralph Nader, seatbelts, airbags, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and NIOSH would cease to exist, the truth is that without him, none of these campaigns (or the dozens of other consumer advocate campaigns he was actively involved in jumpstarting) would have left the starting gate. Unreasonable Man is an inside look at the man once revered for his "fighting for the little guy" but now known only as a pariah. The first half of the doc shows the viewer how Nader came to become disenfranchised with the two-party system—from campaigning vigorously for clean air and water to safety on the job, in the market and at home. The second half of the doc takes the turn onto the 2000 election Blvd. where in just days following the election Nader became the whipping boy for a campaign that really had no one to blame but itself. If only Nader had pulled out of the race before the election and told his followers to vote for Gore! There would be no Iraq War! There would be no global warming! 9-11 probably wouldn't have happened! Each a huge burden for any one man to carry on his shoulders or to follow him around for the rest of his life. (In reality, the 537 vote difference between Gore and Bush in Florida could have been made up by any one of the 3rd party candidates dropping their race and asking supporters to vote Gore). But the most notable point that the doc makes is that Nader could never drop out of the race, it would have gone against the very core of his being: he ran as an alternative to the 2 party system, he is not influenced by special interests, he is one of the few people to stand behind the convictions of his soul. What makes it an interesting documentary is that we do see an inside look at the person (much more so than with Gore in An Inconvenient Truth): we see former allies struggle with their personal relationships yet continue to distance themselves from him (or in the case of Michael Moore: completely flip flop on their convictions. That footage will stain my opinion of him indelibly.) Or in the case of The Nation reporter who practically compares Nader to Hitler for his 2000 Presidential run, come off as completely illogical. It's just odd how when you look at a list of Nader's beliefs (and thus his campaign promises) how much sense they make and when you look at his track record, you see a man who will not back down—isn't this what we all wish our politicians could truly be like?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Think the CIA could use a few hamsters?

Came across this idea by way of mental_floss and boing boing today: a hamster wheel-powered shredder that allows the shredded pieces to fall into the cage and be used for hamster bedding. Ingenius! Just a prototype right now by designer Tom Ballhatchet (more views of the shredder are on the site). Petco are you listening?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reading List: "Field Notes From a Catastrophe"

Off on a mini-road trip to Tucson and back last weekend, and stocked up on some aural stimulation for the drive. Thanks to the good folks at the Burbank Public Library I was able to procure Elizabeth Kolbert's "Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change" read by the delightfully dulcet-toned Hope Davis. First off, it's not the book you want to be listening to in the dark hours alone on the open highway in the Arizona desert, lest you abandon all hope and decide to swerve into a ditch for fear that there is no hope for the planet. But it is a remarkable work otherwise. Similar in shock value (though the science is "sound" despite the U.S. government's reluctance to admit it) to An Inconvenient Truth, it contains information that must be heeded. We cannot look away from the truth of global warming any longer. The most difficult fact to swallow is that even if tomorrow we began to curb emissions, change fuel efficiency standards, and reduce consumption, the damage is done. Short on actual solutions for the casual reader, I'm hoping Al Gore has a big fat checklist to give us when "Live Earth" rolls around on 7/07/07.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I May Need Help...

Okay, so is fixing a 10 year-old pair socks frugality or just plain crazy? Not the greatest socks to begin with, but thought about it and remembered I had bought some thin elastic many years ago when I was thinking of making some bracelets ($7.95 is the price tag on it, for 25 meters it appears, of which I probably had used maybe 1m) and lo and behold, it appears that it makes a pretty good elastic cuff on a pair of old socks. If anyone had any doubt that I lived through the depression before, I think they've all been converted.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Magic of Nature

So each year I plant some tomato seeds and get a little crop of scraggly plants that provide my meager existence with some produce. This year I didn't do any planting on my own, but let nature do its thing by just letting what ever came up out of the ground take root; survival of the fittest, the heartiest (or is it hardiest? can never remember) plant wins. So imagine my surprise when a few weeks back I notice, these are not cherry tomatoes which I've planted for the last 2-3 years but Roma tomatoes which I planted back in another apartment, in another part of town, at least 3 years ago. (and very unsuccessfully at that, I got maybe 2 or 3 tomatoes off the plant and they weren't very good at that) Where did they come from? These seem very hearty (or hardy again); there's about 20 or 30 of them on the vine right now. Seem to be taking their time ripening though!