Sunday, December 31, 2006


I get a lot of headaches. Usually not really bad ones, but sometimes they're pretty intense. I've always looked for some cause-and-effect situation, and I come up with new theories all the time as to what causes them. The answer is probably that it's not actually a cause-and-effect situation at all.

I'm more convinced of it today than I have been before. Yesterday I drank plenty of fluids (especially water), ate healthy without too much salt or sugar or caffeine or processed foods. I was active, and I didn't sit at the computer for very long. I got a good night's sleep.

And today I woke up with a real brain-splitter. A hangover without the indulgence. My earlier experiment was completely ineffective this time around. For whatever reason, I generally only take medication when I have to, and right now I'm waiting for my favorite headache cocktail (1 ibuprofen + 1 Excedrin) to kick in.

But in a more positive light, I've been assimilated into the Groovy Green collective. I'll be contributing to my favorite online green magazine. My first long piece should be appearing in the next day or so. (I know you're saying, "e4 wrote something long? I can't believe it!" Yeah. Me neither.)

So does this mean that I can call myself a "writer" instead of a "blogger"? Nah, I guess it's just semantics, eh?


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Are those hoofbeats on the rooftop?

See Congo? This is why we can't have nice things!


Friday, December 29, 2006

A visit from Hypnotoad

hypnotoadDid you ever witness or experience something that just didn't compute? You saw it with your own two eyes, but you still didn't believe it?

Once, when I was in college, I was hanging out with a couple friends. We were sitting in Jen's bedroom, shooting the breeze, when, for no discernible reason, the bed started to shake. It was a pretty minor vibration, like you might see if a large truck drove by or something. But there was no truck. And it went on for a good three or four minutes. She had told me about this phenomenon at some point, but it was different to see it and feel it. Nothing else in the room seemed to be affected. The best I could figure was that there was a train that was causing just the right frequency of vibration to affect that old house's floorboards just so. Or something. My brain just couldn't process the event without coming up with something remotely plausible.

Today I had another experience that just didn't make sense to me. The explanation was right there. It just didn't seem convincing. Yet there it was.

It all started with Madcap's recent blog entry, which directed me to this website. I thought it sounded pretty hokey, especially with the globe-and-dove logo, the smiling grandfatherly proprietor, and the obligatory quotes from MD's and PhD's.

But I have a lot of respect for Madcap, and she said it worked for her, so I kept reading. I downloaded their manual that explains a very simple (though elaborate-sounding) acupressure technique - a technique that can supposedly cure all manner of physical and emotional ailments, from headaches and back pain to phobias, emotional issues, and post-traumatic stress syndrome, almost instantly.

This sounded a bit too much like a New Age version of faith healing for my taste. I wasn't buying it. But the claims were so extrordinary, and the technique so simple, I had to try it. Besides, they said you didn't have to believe it for it to work.

The subject of my test was obvious: A nasty lingering headache and backache that started three days ago. I read through Part 1 of the manual, jotted a few notes down on a Post-It so I could remember a couple details, and started the wacky tapping and counting and eye-rolling sequence.

By now, you've already guessed the result. It worked. Not 100%, but certainly 90%. By the time I was done targeting my head, neck, and back, my pain eased considerably. My shoulderblade no longer blazed with soreness, my neck pain went away, and my headache was gone. I kept stretching muscles and moving around, trying to make it come back, because I didn't actually believe it. A couple more iterations about 15 minutes later, and I felt better than I had in days.

As I sat here tonight, describing it to my wife, I knew I must be crazy. It doesn't make sense to me. I try to be open minded, but the dots just don't connect for me. I am in denial.

You can bet I'll be trying it again soon though...

I double dog dare you to try it too. Let me know if it works.

Labels: ,

Short attention span blogging

I think there's something seriously wrong with me when I see a big pile of donkey crap, and I think, "Aw, sweet!"


Check out this truly amazing large-scale plant-based art.


Last November's propane bill? $398. This November's propane bill? $54. Woohoo!


Schedule some time off from work, because in a week or two, you're going to be sick. How do I know this? Because you just visited with people from all different places, who brought all their germs together for a different kind of holiday party. And so did everybody else. All those germ parties will be combining into a massive germ Woodstock at your local schools, churches, and workplaces. Resistance is futile.


Sadly, mere months after losing Truck #1, Truck #2 has also gone to the great scrapyard in the sky. The trucks are survived by the Honda and the Subaru. Services were held at the local Ford dealership. In leiu of flowers, please send donations to the E4 Truck Fund.


I've been recently fascinated by a couple of books:

Keeping Food Fresh by "the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante", which describes Old World methods of preserving food. Instead of canning or freezing, which can be rather energy intensive, the book outlines in-ground or root cellar solutions, drying, lactic fermentation, preserving in oil, vinegar, and alcohol, preserving with sugar or salt, and even sweet-and-sour preserves.

Return to Resistance by Raoul Robinson (available for free download here), explains how simple, low-tech techniques can be used to breed a high degree of disease resistance into plants. I'll be writing more about this one later.


Does anybody else think it's weird that in this country, human cloning is illegal, and widely considered immoral, but that meat and milk made from cloned animals is perfectly legal? In fact, it doesn't even need to be labeled as such.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging activities.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

To all...

I hope some dude with supernatural powers did something nice for you this year. I hope some beautiful lights are there to brighten long dark nights. I hope you've found a bit of happiness in your corner of the world. I hope those people who are important to you know it. I hope you believe in something good.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

One Half

I've become fascinated by a web site called Build It Solar. Despite the name, it's focus is not just on solar power. In fact, there are very few mentions of traditional solar panels anywhere on the site.

It's more of a collection of energy conservation projects, mostly in the low-tech, do-it-yourself realm. That's where I found the amazing 0.1 kWh fridge that I mentioned before. There must be a couple hundred other projects listed. They're not all necessarily practical, but you never know what people might be able to accomplish. Most are low-cost. Many are experimental. Most are interesting or educational.

Some examples:
But, on the more mundane side, I thought the most interesting section was one called "1/2." It details one households attempt to cut their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emition in half, without significantly changing their lifestyle and without spending a bundle.

For each of the projects, they detailed the cost, the energy savings, the greenhouse gas reduction, the cost savings, the payback time, the time it took to do the project, and the difficulty level. They also have a nice outline of which of the 22 projects are most cost effective.

So how'd they do? Pretty darn well. They acheived a 50% reduction in energy usage, a 46% reduction in greenhouse gas, and got back 44% of the money they spent in the very first year.


Friday, December 15, 2006


For a plant nerd like me, seeds have a slightly magical quality. You drop this tiny speck or wrinkled pebble in the ground, and, with any luck, you get something delicious or beautiful. Or both. Poring over seed catalogs is fun, but it can be a little exasperating too, because every variety sounds fabulous. And you know they're not.

So this year, I opted for the Medium Heirloom Package (Northern Selection) from Baker Creek. Sixty five dollars sounds like a lot at first blush, but check out what I got for it:

Plant Variety
--------------------- --------------------------------
Amaranth Opopeo
Arugula Arugula
Basil Dark Purple Opal Basil
Bean Royalty Purple Pod
Bean Old Homestead (Kentucky Wonder)
Beet Early Wonder
Broccoli Romanesco Italia
Brussels Sprouts Catskills
Cabbage Henderson's Charleston Wakefield
Carrot Kuroda Long 8"
Carrot St. Valery
Cauliflower Green Macerata
Celery Thai Bai Khuen Chai
Chicory (Grumolo) Rossa Di Verona "Aida"
Corn (popcorn) Lady Finger
Cowpea Purple Hull Pinkeye
Cucumber Parisian Pickling
Cucumber Lemon Cuke
Cucumber Lemon Cucumber
Eggplant Diamond
Eggplant Applegreen
Endive De Louviers
Fava Bean Broad Windsor
Garden Berries Ground Cherry (Strawberry Husk)
Greens Wrinkled Crinkled Cress
Greens (Oriental) Tatsoi
Greens (Oriental) Michihli Cabbage
Lettuce Tom Thumb
Lettuce Rouge D'Hiver
Melon (American) Minnesota Midget
Melon (Asian) Sakata's Sweet
Okra Star of David
Onion Flat of Italy
Parsnip Harris Model
Pea (snow) Mammoth Melting Sugar
Pepper (hot) Tam Jalapeno
Pepper (hot) Cayenne Long Thin
Pepper (sweet) Golden Cal Wonder
Pepper (sweet) Mini Red Bell
Radish Scarlet Turnip White Tip
Radish Long Scarlet
Rutabaga American Purple Top
Spinach Bloomsdale Long Standing
Squash (Summer) Zucchini-Gray
Squash (Summer) White Scallop
Squash (Winter) Delicata
Squash (Winter) Black Futsu
Sunflower Mammoth Grey Striped
Swiss Chard (rainbow) Five Color Silverbeet
Tomato Wapsipinicon Peach
Tomato Tigerella
Tomato Marmande
Tomato Black Prince
Tomato (green) Lime Green Salad
Tomato (orange) Patio Orange
Tomato (orange) Golden Jubilee
Tomato (pink) Eva Purple Ball
Tomato (red) Sub-Arctic Plenty
Tomato (white) White Tomesol
Tomato (white) Snow White
Turnip Purple Top White Globe
Watermelon Orangeglo

There are a lot of varieties here that I know almost nothing about. And some plants I know nothing about. Having somebody pick "favorites" for me is a bit liberating, and while I'm sure there'll be some misses, both in the garden and on the dinner plate, it'll be a lot of fun to see what we get.

Each seed pack has between 25 and 800 seeds, and each seed is, potentially, something edible. Sometimes a large quantity of something edible. (And its own seed source to boot!) To stop and think about the food potential there is a bit mind boggling to me. To think about how I'm going to get all of these things planted, and what goes where is a bit mind boggling too, actually.

Luckily, I have all winter to work that out!


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Freeduce, freeuse...

I'm a newcomer to the world of Freecycle. I was told that you could list a bag of used kleenex on Freecycle, and somebody would come take it from you. That may be true, but sometimes I'm surprised. Somebody came to take away random parts from a propane fireplace, but nobody wanted a free surround sound receiver. It didn't have Dolby 5.1 after all.

I love the concept. It's generally a win-win scenario, where I get rid of something I no longer need or want, and you get something you could really use, or vice-versa, all for free. It's helped me clean out the basement a bit, get rid of some odds and ends that we had no use for, and it's gained me a very small pile of cinder blocks for future use.

I think the chances of a great find on Freecycle depend on where you live, and what you consider a great find. Our local group has a lot of kid's clothes, old furniture, and VHS videotapes changing hands. Most moderators discourage stories attached to listings, but ours doesn't. We get a lot of grandbabies that need carseats because their daddy left, or appliance requests because they can't afford a washing machine since they got divorced, or a story about how they are in "desperate" need of a curio cabinet because their husband doesn't want knick knacks in his gun cabinet any more. Sometimes amusing, sometimes sad, sometimes hard to believe.

Occasionally I see listings from people who, apparently, have never heard the phrase, "beggars can't be choosers." Recently, somebody locally was "looking for a navy blue felt/velvet tree skirt with a satin ruffle around the edge. I would like it to have silver snowflakes." If only I'd known!

In any case, I think Wendy has just earned a blackbelt in Freecycling.

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Garbanzo Hockey

Today I learned a new game. It's called Garbanzo Hockey. I'm not entirely clear on the rules, but I'll do the best I can to explain them.

To play Garbanzo Hockey, you need six small, shallow Play-Doh containers with different colored lids (referred to as "pockey hucks" by aficionados). The containers should be placed on a smooth floor. It's critical (for some reason) that the containers be placed upside-down, with the lids on the floor.

One player gets five pockey hucks. (The youngest player, if I'm not mistaken.) The other player gets one huck -- the one with the yellow lid. I'm not clear on the rules for three-player Garbanzo Hockey, but I do know that the third player gets a green lid, leaving the youngest player with four hucks instead of five.

The player with the most hucks counts to three, and on three, the players slide their Play-Doh containers toward each other. If the player with the yellow lid slides his container through the oncoming horde of colorful pockey hucks, without the yellow lidded huck touching any of the others, the yellow lid player wins the point. If the yellow huck collides in the middle with any of the others, the other player wins the point. Usually. Points are at the discretion of the youngest player. Actually, I'm pretty sure everything about the game is at the discretion of the youngest player...

E5 demonstrates proper
Garbanzo Hockey technique


Smart kids

The trouble with smart kids is that as fast as you establish rules, they find loopholes. The more you explain the reasons for something, the more skilled they become at debating. At least my son's language skills are improving.

The other infuriating habit he's developed is that whenever we do something fun with the kids - like go to the park - he always seems to turn into a monster for the rest of the day afterwards.

I sit there at the park, watching him interact so well with other kids. I feel proud when I see him helping the younger kids and holding his own with the bigger kids, knowing how to react when a child wants to interact and when a child wants to shy away... just being a great little kid. And then after it's time to go, his behavior goes steadily downhill. I've tried to explain to him that it makes us not want to do fun things with him, but I can't solve the riddle. I can't get inside his head and figure out what he's getting out of it.

So in addition to a bad day with my son, I ran out of gas, found a goat and a donkey roaming loose outside their fences (still not sure how they managed it), had both male goats playing King of the Mountain on top of the plywood roof of their shelter, came into contact with several different kinds of poo (including rat, human, and goat), and my total food intake for the day amounted to an apple, a grilled cheese sandwich, a donut, and a new pasta recipe that probably won't be making a repeat appearance. I probably had a calorie deficit of about 1000 today.

But, at least I learned how to play Garbanzo Hockey. (More on that when I'm in a better mood.)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cool, man...

When you start delving into energy efficiency, you find some surprising things. My favorite things to find are the ideas that bubble up from underground. Technology is all well and good, but high tech energy solutions often come with high price tags. Otherwise we'd all be doing them already.

But there are a lot of clever people out there coming up with creative, elegant solutions to common problems, sometimes with amazing results.

For example, I just read a writeup by a guy in Australia who used store-bought equipment to create a super-efficient refrigerator. And it's so easy you won't believe it.

I still have the EnergyGuide tag from our fridge. I don't know why, and I don't know how I found it so easily, but here it is, right here in front of me. It tells me that our fridge uses 576 KWH per year. The least efficient fridge, according to the tag, uses 789 KWH per year, and the most efficient uses 524 KWH per year. So ours is not too bad, right?

The Aussie guy's fridge uses... wait for it... 36.5 KWH per year. Note the decimal point. That puts it about fifteen times better than the best fridge on my EnergyGuide tag. His fridge uses the same amount of energy in an hour as a 100-watt lightbulb.

All this guy did was take a chest freezer and wire a new thermostat into it, turning it from a freezer into a refrigerator. And the way he did it was the hard way. It turns out he could have bought one of these for $60 and he'd have been done with the whole thing in five minutes.

How is this possible? Well, first, cold air is heavy. When you open your standard refrigerator or freezer, much of the cold air spills out on the floor. Go over to it in bare feet and open it, and you'll see what I mean. But on a chest freezer, all that cool air stays inside, like a pool of water. Chest freezers generally have better insulation than upright refrigerators too. They're already more efficent by half.

So when you don't need it to maintain freezing temperatures, it runs less. A lot less, apparently. Like, hardly at all. Two minutes per hour, he says.

As for the convenience factor, the original designer says that he just keeps related items together in the little baskets, so when he wants a sandwich, he grabs the basket with lunch meat and condiments or whatever.

So now all we have to do is get around the fact that all our kitchens are all designed for upright refrigerators...


Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Ol' Factory

Smell is such a primal sense. It's like there's not much processing involved - your nose is hotwired directly to the center of your brain. If you wave a box of 64 Crayolas under the nose of your grandpa, it might instantly send his mind back to his mother's kitchen table, at age 5. If you open a container of Play-Doh near mom, she may suddenly remember combing it out of your hair while you sat in your high chair, with a Day-Glo orange grin on your face. Sometimes I can't even identify a smell, except to to say, "This place smells like my grandma's attic!"

...which is why I think candles and sprays and incense in the bathroom can be problematic.

I had a college roommate who loved to use a vanilla-scented candle in the bathroom to mask certain odors. But it didn't really make the offending odor go away, it just kind of gave it something to mingle with. And for a long time it created an association in my nose-to-brain pathway between spicy vanilla and stinky poo.

It's a dangerous game.

If you go with cinnamon, or orange, you risk recalling bowel movements at breakfast. Lavendar or rose might tell your brain that somebody dropped a deuce in the herb garden. Apple or cherry might lead your imagination to somebody taking a dump on your dessert. "Cotton" or "Fresh Linen" scent might make you think somebody crapped the bed. These are just not associations that make life better.

So I'm proposing a new line of bathroom fragrances, such as:

  • Boss's Desk

  • Ex's Doorstep

  • Congressman's Mailbox

  • The Break Room in DirecTV's Customer Service Department

Think it'll work?