Wednesday, April 29, 2009

GIBBONS!!! and 2 Sloths. Awesome and sad zoo and The Tap

So, Wednesday I woke up at my usual fricking 5AM. Christ. I'm on vacation.

Anyway, I just stayed in bed reading for a few hours and got up after Jonny went to work.

I checked the interwebs to see if there was a bank (need to deposit the rent) in the area, an independent coffee shop, and some bread products (Jonny has peanut butter, jam, even hummus but NOT a single cracker or crust of bread in the house...I had a cup of tea and some peanut butter on a spoon for breakfast...actually, that's not that bad of a breakfast).

When I google mapped his place, turns out he is 10 blocks from the Denver Zoo. Cool.

Let's start with the bad:
KIDS. I hate kids and they were everywhere. Busloads of them. Screaming. Don't they have "adults only" hours at the zoo like they do at the pool? And the animals really don't like the screaming. I agree with the animals. Anyway, they sat down to eat at noon so I just kept going.

These animals had enclosures that were too small and showed signs of stress from the caging: bears, rhino, hippo, elephants, giraffes, various "hoofed" animals from africa, eagles and a condor in a cage less than 30 feet high and less than 100 feet long was sad.

Seals didn't look too pleased either.

BUT...some animals seemed to be doing OK. There had been some work on the primate area and most seemed to have enough "enrichment" that they were relaxing rather than pacing or rocking or throwing poo.

Anyway, the gibbons ROCK.

I have a video on my phone but don't know how to put it in the right format.

Then, I'm walking through the bird building which I was going to skip but thought that inside and without kids (they were not that jazzed about the birds). One docent was SUPER chatty which usually annoys me, but this one pointed out sloths that I hadn't noticed! In with birds.
The cave bats and fruit bats were behind glass in another building and I kept ducking when they came to the window. I hate bats.
They had fantastic turtles. The alligator snapping turtle would scare the b-jeezuz out of Pam (Hi Pam), but was very cool.
They have a surprising number of toucans. Who knew?
They have quite a bit of conservation and "anti-extinction" information around which is nice. Several zoo-keepers were available for comment while they worked in the food prep rooms. There were windows in to the rooms and buttong so you could ask them stuff.
I hope they can remedy the cage situations for some of the bigger critters soon.
At the zoo I had no portable cup and eventually gave in and got a lemonade. The plastic cup (DAMMIT) was made of corn. Corn is such a high-petroleum-input crop that I'm not sure it's worth it. I hear that corn plastic decomposes and I did carry the cup (with lemon slice) around for the rest of the visit and kept refilling it at drinking fountains. I did use drinking fountains without a cup for much of the visit, but I was getting woozy from the all protein breakfast and the heat and needed a bit of sugar and flavor to avoid heat stroke (I'm very heat stroky).

Now for a new dilemma. It's easy to get regular skin grease without a plastic bottle. I can refill the ones I have or get shea butter in tins at the Moscow Food Co-op and will look in to ordering larger quantities of shea butter (unrefined) online. BUT: where does one get sun screen without a plastic container? The shea butter has some variable sun screen properties but my nose is already peeling. I didn't even bring a hat or a bandana so the ears may go next. I kept moving the part in my hair to avoid scalp burn. I'm such a moron sometimes.

This was funny. I'm in the primate area and am wearing my black keen shoes with the newly applied retreads, brown carhart pants, a dark green un-marked t-shirt, and the blue removable sleeves shirt I got for christmas a couple of years back. I had the zip-off sleeves zipped off. A kid, about 5 or 6, says "What are you?" I looked confused. He said, "Are you a person who works here" I said "No, but I am an anthropologist". He was not impressed and his mother just walked off. I don't think they realized that that meant I could actually answer a question or two about the mandrills we were looking at.
OH! and this was the best best best. At the main potty room by the entrance/exit gate, they play environmental information in the bathroom (e.g. you help the environment if you shut off the water while you brush your teeth). AND the door of each stall has a picture of an animal head on the outside...and that animal's BUTT on the inside of the door. Awesome. I was in the mandrill stall.

I made some pasta for dinner for Jonny and me and then we went to see Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer at the Paramount Theatre here in Denver. AWESOME!!

They were hysterical and Christopher Guest is a seriously good musician. They did all their big songs and a few more that we hadn't heard much or at all before. Big Bottom was redone as a jazz bit with only Shearer on bass and McKean and Guest snapping their fingers and reciting/singing the song. A woman in a black leotard came out and did a free form jazz dance to the song. Disappointingly, she was very thin and did NOT have a big bottom. I would have much preferred a Beth Ditto type in the role. Oh well.

I did have to run out and pee during Stone Henge (no dwarves or props) and used that time to get a t-shirt.

We were in the 7th row on the aisle and could see very well. It was fabulous. Money well spent. we're going to wear the t-shirts to the clown museum on Saturday.

Today (it's actually Thursday because I was too tired last night to get it together and finish the blog) we're heading out to Twin Lakes Reservoir and the Mines and Ores or Ores and Mines B&B. Should be fab as well. Friday is the alligator farm and Walsenburg and Saturday is the clown museum and back here. Sunday the green festival is in town and I'm hoping to go to a bit of that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Today I flew to Denver to visit Jonny (hi jonny). I got in at about 2pm and Jonny picked me up at 2:30. He had been at class and needed to get back to work.

Here he is working:

I'm sitting at a lovely desk tha thas a panoramic view of the mountains and free wifi. Jonny provided his laptop with a "guest" user and password just for me. He's so sweet. On the way he stopped at the Super Target so I could get some food. I had a lovely wrap that turned out to have some roquefort in it. Oops. I don't think it was much since it was the 3rd to the last ingredient, after "vinegar" and "salt". I have the neti pot so don't think I'll end up with any dairy-sinus issues.

Anyway, I hear there is a whole foods on the way home which is good as I need some seasalt and apple cider vinegar. I just couldn' t face explaining 2 white powders (sea salt and baking soda) and some vinegar to the security at the airport so will buy it here. I haven't washed my hair in a week. I thought about it this morning but it always gets gross while flying anyway so why bother. I've got all day tomorrow relaxing at Jonny's swinging pad (I accidentally typed "swining" pad which would be totally different) before the big show.

Someone has already posted segments of the Unwigged tour.
Here's a taste:
(it won't embed...son of a BITCH)

Anyway, hope they don't mind my carharts and a sweater because that is what I brought. I packed for 6 days in a small day pack. It's usually my field pack.

To try to comply with the "no more plastic bottles thing" I decided to bring a enamel ware cup rather than the steel bottle. The bottle would look incriminating on the x-ray. And I didn't want them taking it because it's 20$ or so. So, I went with the cup. Of course I was tempted by the Starbucks in the airport (I don't usually indulge in that, prefer local businesses) and got an iced soy chai which they put in a plastic cup! Dammit. Oh well. I'm using the enamel cup now at Jonny's office.

Maybe I'll get a hip metal bottle here and give it to Jonny as part of his hostess gift.

Speaking of that...I was reading his hostess gift on the plane and realized that it probably didn't look good. I had picked up a copy of "Male Sexuality" (a self-help book from the 1970s) at a thrift store and added that to the copy of "Everything you ever wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask" that I had already gotten (same thrift store...theme?). Well, reading that on the plane was probably not making me look classy. I didn't want to stand up and explain to everyone who had walked down aisle and seen me giggling over pages with LARGE PRINT headers suggesting I take stock of my sex life or perhaps write a letter to myself from my "male appendage"; that I was reading this book IRONICALLY. I figured that would just make it worse. I didn't feel like reading the magazine that was in the seat pocket and had been handled by god knows who. That normally doesn't bother me but I really don't want to get sick at the start of a vacation.

Anyway, here I sit in a lovely ec0-appropriate office drinking my water out of a cup I brought from home..woohoo!

Jonny tells me that the urinals are waterless but I haven't been able to confirm that. I think I'll make a run to the ladies and come report on that....

OK, I couldn’t find the women’s room and the free wifi just died so now I’m typing into a word document and lost the photo and this never works. Oh well. I can always retype it later. It’s not like I have much to do.

Jonny showed me the way to the women's room.

The women’s room is lovely! Big, roomy, plenty of turlets. AND they are dual flush with a green-colored handle, which according to the signage on the wall is an antibacterial coating. It was “up for liquid waste” and “down for solid waste”. This left me with many questions. What if you can’t quite decide if that was liquid or solid? Anyway, I’ll leave it there, shall I?

But first, some photos:

Full view of turlet area with green "anti-bacterial handle"

And here is a close-up of the instructions (I took all photos BEFORE using the turlet).

The internet is still down but Jonny has real work to do so I’m trying not to bother him. I do have the iPod that Pam sends preloaded so I can always listen to that. So hard not to bother Jonny while he works…must not do it. Hmmm…what to do. I suppose I could try to break into other parts of his computer. I don’t know how to do that. I can dig a square hole but I can’t “hack” into a computer.

Time to iPod…ah….Pilkington. The thing is acting up a bit. Must need re-whatevered.

(posted later from Jonny's place while he makes me steam-sauteed broccoli with basmati rice pilaf and tequila lime salmon burgers...mmmm)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Metal Bottle Update

So far so good with the metal bottle. It works and hasn't heated up in the sun. I probably won't get around to the insulating cozy until I burn myself on the bottle on a sunny day. BUT: at least it won't be a neoprene cozy. God. That neoprene probably contains as much plastic as a dozen bottles thereby negating the positive environmental effect of getting the bottle.

Anyway, yesterday I went with 3 friends to a strawbale house tour. It's in a neighborhood in Spokane (TerraGreen) which will basically be an exclusive upscale development with green-washed homes. They layout was clearly meant for passive solar gain, but the lot was situated so that the south windows were approximately 25 feet from the lot edge. The next lot was fully treed (evergreens so not appropriate) and designated as "green space" in the development so the trees could not be cut to expose the windows to the all important winter sun. I was assured that there was good passive solar in the summer. don't want it in the summer. You want shade in the summer. Again, evergreens not good for summer shade.
The layout was typical...4 bathrooms. One with a dual flush toilet, the rest with regular. Massive kitchen with black marble countertop which would have made for good thermal mass if there had been passive solar. The floor however was stinky industrial laminate. The deck was a mix of wood and recycled plastic. As much as I appreciate the "recycled", frankly, it looked like a plastic deck. The under-eaves covering was also plastic (recycled or not, it looked alot like the fake-wood-plastic doors on the 35 year old cupboards in my trailer). Looked cheap. The roof was standard asphalt/tar shingles. I asked about heat. It's propane fired under floor heating. Fine. But there are good opportunities for both solar and geothermal here.
Another point of pride with the builder was that the house was "pre-plumbed for solar hot water"...and yet, they had put in a huge propane pig to fire the on-demand hotwater heater. Why? The one thing you can reliably get in this part of the world for 6 months a year is blistering sun on the roof for over 10 hours a day. They could have done a dual system with no problem. but they didn't.
Oh well.

One other point of confusion for me was that despite plastering over the bales, as is required, they did not just pigment the plaster. They plastered and then painted it. That paint will chip. The plaster would have lasted forever if pigmented.

One COOL point was the bathroom floors. They were cement with agate pebbles (1-3") pressed in. They were lovely and with the underfloor heating should provide a nice warm foot massage in the morning. One not so cool point is that since these floors weren't flat, the (plastic) mopboards did not actually meet the floor. I'm thinking that will be a problem when they mop and end up getting water in the walls, both the exterior strawbale walls and the interior cheap wallboard walls.

It is good to know that there are some strawbale homes going in in Spokane so that the city building permit staff get familiar with them, but sad that this was sort of a cheap version. Despite the "cheap" finishes (other than the counters and bathroom floors), the cost was 180$/sq.foot and that did not include the lot, appliances, electric hook up, water and sewer hook up, etc. Just the construction. Wow. With the house being 2700sq.ft I estimate the house cost $486,000 plus the cost of the lot and utilities connections (which are pricey in this part of the world).

My current favorite floorplan for my own imaginary future green home is only 480sq.ft. But at that rate it would cost at least 86,000$. That is RIDICULOUS! No wonder people buy trailers.

I was figuring more like 20,000 construction costs (with appliances). So that gives me $41.66/sq.ft. The appliances (composting toilet, possible woodstove for back up heat and/or cooking) will cost about 5000$. So a comparable sq.ft estimate is: $31.25/sq.ft for just construction. I don't contemplate any utilities hook ups and will have to wait for any fancy solar electric systems.

Anyway, it was wierd.

OK, must be off to do weekend stuff now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

No More Plastic Beverage Bottles

Well, I made the Earthday choice.
I'm giving up plastic beverage bottles. They are a scourge on the planet, violate basic human rights to clean drinking water (by making people pay for it in poverty stricken areas and by making clean water a non-issue for middle class and wealthy people who routinely buy bottled water and thusly forget about the state of water on this planet when it is not contained in a petroleum based skin).

I got a 20 oz. or so sized "klean kanteen" to get started with. It's stainless steel and should last forever. It will get a bit hot in the sun so I may make it a nice wool cozy (which when wet will actually cool the water down a bit) with some pendleton blanket scraps or something.
I think the biggest challenge will be camping and needing to haul in the water for drinking, cooking and washing. I think I see a filter in my future...and a bigger "klean kanteen" for field work and hiking.

It took a few more looks at the ditches around here littered with plastic bottles and a friend who reminded me that even at 17$, if I skip buying 17 bottles of water it will be paid for in no time.

I rarely by beverages in plastic bottles anyway, but when I forget water, I do break down and buy a bottle. Now I must remember to bring the "kanteen" with me all the time or use my insulated cup that is usually in the car rather than just being lazy and buying water in a petroleum skin.

This bit of info helps me when I lose my resolve to cut back on plastic:

And photos like this don't hurt either:

That bird died stuffed with GARBAGE...plastic garbage. If one of those caps is from a bottle I used, it makes me ill. Time to drink tap water from a reusable container.

Oh, and Pam tells me that the whole 'no poo thing is going mainstream. It got space on MSNBC:

In the past week I've had 2 people ask me exactly how to do it so here is the shorty short version:
Supplies: cup or bowl for the baking soda and, later, vinegar (do not mix them unless you are making a volcano in a cup)
Wet hair thoroughly (easier in a sink than in a shower but whatever), all the way to the scalp.
Mix about 1T of baking soda (some use less, some more) into a slury. Part your very wet hair so you can scrub a bit of that mix into the scalp. Scrub a lot. Part a bit to one side, repeat. Do that until you've scrubbed your whole scalp.
Rinse well.
Dilute about 1T of apple cider vinegar in the cup or bowl of water.
If you have long hair, dip the long bit in this, then slowly pour it over your scalp while working it in a bit (this will keep the baking soda from drying out your hair and scalp and acts as a detangler).
Finish with a cold water rinse (again, easier in the sink than in the shower). You can just do one cold water rinse rather than a rinse and then a cold rinse.

Again, my hair is longer, fewer split ends, easier to comb and wavier than it used to be with shampoo and conditioner. Since it's been a year I figure I've saved about 4 plastic bottles from the landfill and/or an ocean bird's gut. That's because I was already refilling bottle from the bulk shampoo/conditioner station at the co-op. I only used new bottles when I went to a hotel and enjoyed the freebies.
El Kid...he's still using shampoo. To each his own. He recycles the bottles and that is much appreciated.

So, I no longer get plastic grocery bags and only sometimes use plastic veggie bags (when I forget my woven ones and have fruit or veg that would be damaged rolling about in the bag or say strawberries or mushrooms or a soggy lump of tofu...and onion can roll about all it wants). No shampoo or conditioner bottles, I've been re-using the same dish detergent bottle for at least 2 years now, get my peanut butter in recycled containers (all this is from the bulk stuff at the co-op), so the next elimination of plastic could be tougher to locate!

Happy post-Earth Day everyone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!!

Happy Earth Day.

Here's a quick link to Earth Day History:
Begun in 1970 by a Wisconsin Senator, the unfortunately named Gaylord Nelson, to focus some attention on the environmental costs of our way of life.

Again with the leadership in the midwest! First Earth Day and then the right to legal marriage affirmed. And only 39 years apart.

Anyway, I like to celebrate Earth Day. It will be low key today. I've done some garden planning (may never make a garden but it's good to plan) and am trying to figure out what to "give up" to help the environment (and as a side effect these things always help the budget). Last year I gave up shampoo and conditioner about this time of year. For the past year I have not aquired a single plastic bottle for either of those things and my tub drain is shiny clean from all the baking soda and vinegar.

This year I don't know. I may give up industrial lotions. I use mostly unrefined shea butter anyway. Or I may try to totally give up plastic beverage bottles. I've mostly given that up, but now and then I've forgotten to bring a water bottle and end up buying a gallon (more cost effective and less plastic per ounce). This could be tough when camping and sometimes in the field but I think it could work if I just remember to keep containers in the car and in my field bag. I keep a 3 gallon jug of water in the car...plastic jug that isn't refillable...most of the time so I'll have to find a better container. I used to have a gallon thermos jug. I wonder if that is still around. I could also use the iced tea jar I forget is under the counter.

I'll let you know what I decide to do.
Eventually I may give up all forms of industrial meat. Only fish I catch (with the Tribe's stocked trout ponds there is a guarantee of a steady catch), stuff I kill (and I don't hunt at the moment so there won't be much of that), stuff killed by people I know, or buffalo from the guy who raises it himself and has it custom butchered. Chicken from my friends who raise their own would be fine too. This would be super hard on vacations so may need a caveat for that, or a switch to vegetarian travel food.

Alright, I'm at work so best get at it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Awesome Thrifting

I dont' know if people are getting kicked out of their homes or what, but the thrifting has been so good, I'm having to take a break.

Finding a Japanese/English keyboard for El Kid was pretty cool. He was impressed and hasn't hooked it up but seems to like staring at it.

Books I've found: some I can't tell because they will be gifts...but maybe those people won't read anyway. Someone from the 1970s croaked or something and awesome books were at a couple of thrift stores. I got "Everything you always wanted to know about sex...but were afraid to ask". Frankly after reading parts of this book, I'm more frightened than I've ever been. According to the good "doctor" (the author claims to be a psychiatrist and is getting his info from patients...perhaps not the BEST source for info about "normal" people's sexuality) all prostitutes are lesbians, there is no such thing as male prostitute, ...I don't think there is one other thing I can post without turning this blog into something horrifying and making both readers cringe.
I also found a 1970s textbook for some class that would probably be called "health and human development" now. It talked about finances, making a nice home (a woman's job apparently), sexuality (don't do anything, you'll probably get an infection, die and give birth simultaneously), and making money (a man's job...unless a woman wants to work before she gets married, that's probably OK but she might get mannish).

The decorating book from 1978 is fabulous! (these books were a dime each or so) It is one long fashion DON'T for your home. I think my favorite is how they "opened up the space" by getting rid of that pesky wall between the master bedroom and the master bathroom. They did not however, get rid of the master TOILET!!! It is behind a sort of halfwall. The master tub was sunk down and made flush with the (carpetted) floor. Another pit was sunk near it and filled with plants. The toilet, tub, and in-potty-garden are all visible through the GIANT WINDOW. In the background you can see lights from the neighbors. But, I suspect the neighbors moved. As did the wife the first time the husband used that toilet (not a vent to be seen) and then expected a little boom-chicka-wrow-wrow. Don't you love waking up to the sound of your beloved taking a loud pee? Or perhaps they both died when they were trying to take a late night tinkle without turning on the lights (what with the lack of WALLS to confine the light) and fell into the sunken tiled tub and/or planter breaking their heads open and bleeding out (though conveniently into the drain and I hear the roses looked FABULOUS when they were finally found by the neighbors who couldn't help but look now and then.) I'm pretty sure this book must be featured on the webpage commemorating ugly rooms from the 1970s. I'd send you there but the bastards have taken it down and are now selling it as a book. That's not nice. The ugly should be free for us all to enjoy. I'll see if I can get my scanner up and running and share some from my own 10cent book.

Then there is the 1970s knitting patterns. The patterns are disturbing enough (3-D puppets poking out of children's sweater dresses so short that the crotch of her tights is well below the hem...the wearer does not look pleased) but the photos are amazing. Every single person looks self-conscious and uncomfortable if not outright pissed. Fantastic. Frankly, they look like photos my friend Jonny (Hi Jonny!) would take and put in an art show. I'm hoping someday we can re-create them and take a picture with the book open in the background to the page we're recreating.

I bought a "Cheapskate" book but it turns out I'm well beyond the piddling suggestions they make (eat at home more, cook for yourself...DUH). So that dime was wasted.

Someone recently suggested to me that since I read so much, I get some new high tech gadget where you can download books and read them off a computer screen. It apparently has an integral cell phone type link and you can buy books no matter where you are. I highly suspect that the books I enjoy will not be available on that device. The device itself costs something like 400$!! I can get 4,000 books for that amount of money. Not to mention the library.

That's probably enough for now.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cool Woodstoves

Not much really.
But I'm feeling like I haven't posted enough and I have a few minutes. I was going to start digging the garden this afternoon, but there is still a lot of snow on the ground from yesterday and the ground is SOGGY which makes for tough digging. Perhaps in an hour it will all be better. Or not.

Doing taxes today. It's a bit late, but what can you do. I just have to get the crap together and do the totals. The tax man then works his magic and I pay the bill. That may not seem frugal, but he gets me way way more back than I get for myself and I hate hate hate doing it.
Here's hoping I get enough back to up the land savings.

I've thinking through the lovely off-grid or semi-off-grid cabin I hope to have someday. I've found a floor plan that should work. 2 small bedrooms with a good size living/dining room, tiny bathroom, and small but do-able kitchen. There is an easy way to add a loft if I put the right type of roof on it.

I've been wondering about heating. Passive solar and possibly having the cabin partly underground on the back and sides will do part of it. But those 18-below nights we had this winter with days on end with no sun, I will need some supplemental heat. I'll also need a way to cook in the winter when there is no sun.
Woodstove comes to mind. Most are too big (put out too much heat and take up too much room).
BUT, check out this thing:

Is that not adorable? A tiny
cookstove. Those are regular sized mugs off to the side, not HUGE trompe l'oeil deals. It has a 2 burner top and a smallish oven. Of course, it may well have a 20minute burn time which would be a problem. BUT, you can also order a drop-in alcohol burner for one of the top burners. That way you can cook in the summer without burning wood. That could come in pretty handy for a cup of tea in the morning before the sun is up. It doesn't need much in the way of clearance and can be set up on a (non-flammable) counter. When building with mudd and rocks, all of that can be done. You can also get it in lovely enameled colors. The downside: it costs more than most of the cars I've owned. The upside: I buy crap cars so that still isn't that much. It's in the 2500$ range for standard black iron. It's also cool because it's built with patterns or moulds from the 1890s.

Anyway, if that is too much or not enough here are a couple of other options:

This, despite the size of the photo, is bigger than the last one. It is a convection heater so the top is hot, but the sides aren't. This saves a great deal on clearances around the stove which will be a big deal in a small cabin. I've also seen where people buy the regular radiant heat stoves (cheaper) and cob right around the stove will very little airspace. This lets the stove heat the cob (mud, straw, clay mix) for a longer heat time than just the burn time. That's all well and good but again, takes up space and starts to make the house look "
hobbity" which I HATE. If I wanted a cozy round house I'd be a rabbit and live in a hole. I want a square house like god intended. Unless it really works, in which case I'll learn to live with a hobbity stove.

And this little number from Australia is cool:

Four burners and an oven. BUT, it's bigger and would probably overheat the house on most regular days. And how much bread do I need to bake?

There are some other options, like harvesting methane off the decomposing animal waste (yes, poop) into a propane type stove/oven. I'm not sure I'm enough of a hippie to cook my food over poo-fumes. I could probably tolerate running a
hot water heater with it because that flame is isolated from the water. But a stove with a turd-gas flame right under my food....too much.
So we're back to

Anyway, someday I'll post the floor plan I found (if I still like it in a few weeks).
It's very compact without getting all hippie dippy.