Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Couple of Cool Things

First, go directly to:
and watch kids re-enact a more accurate version of Thanksgiving!!
Awesome. Pam (hi pam) recommended I send this to Chris-n-Pat (hi chris-n-pat) but I think everyone should see it.
The kids in this little skit will have a better idea about American history than most Americans d0.

THEN if you're really ambitious and live in LA, go rent a movie called "The Exiles". It was made in 1958-1961 (a couple of people got called up for military service during post production and it got delayed) but wasn't released theatrically until 2008. It's like a weird time capsule. It's a documentary in the style of the time, so more docudrama now, about the Native Americans moved to the Bunker Hill neighborhood in LA during relocation. This was an Eisenhower era program to try to get Indians, especially young Indians, off the reservations and into cities. The theory was, once again, that if we assimilate them we can get rid of the "Indian problem" (like living up to the treaties and dealing with a pretty grim past etc). This is about the same time as termination where whole tribes were just eliminate from legal existence. Most fought to get it back.
ANYWAY, the movie shows 19-25 year old Indians in the city without jobs (because there weren't many) and trying to make lives for themselves. Like most people who move from the boondocks to the slums, it doesn't go smoothly. The movie only covers one night of life. But you see Indians dancing to rock and roll and surf music, wearing khakis and sweaters like mainstream folks. They aren't reduced to some "Indian" caricature. There is a long scene with a 49, a type of after hours party common on reservations and in urban communities. That is almost never seen on film. The "actors" are all amateurs and all the actual residents of the area. They worked up most of their own dialogue and the film was put together from footage shot over 2 years when the student writer/director/producer, Kent MacKenzie, and the others had time. Pretty interesting and pretty ground breaking.
Sherman Alexie (Smoke Signals etc) and someone whose name escapes me now do an excellent commentary track.

Anyway, I hope someone thinks to get me a copy of the Exiles for christmas. Nothing like depressing independent films from the archives to celebrate the holidays!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A few updates

So, I have a half day off work (it would be a full day but I'm building up comptime to take all of Friday off).
What to do now?
I guess it's time to learn to use the free vacuum sealer I got from Diana (hi diana!). The fish bait has gotten hard and rubbery and/or gross and toxic depending on how you look at it. If it works, this could be a great source of barter-able items as well as my own fishbait.

And, the vinegar is not looking fab. The honey keeps separating out. I think my house is too cold. I'm tempted to leave it in the linen cupboard behind the furnace. That should be warm. But, will it make my towels smell like vinegar/rotting fruit? We'll see.

And the post "No Impact Week" assessment.
The first week after I had a bit of a binge week with 2 trips through drivethru's. Though I only got the burgers...no fries, no drink, etc. And it was a local establishment in Coeur d'Alene which forms burgers from actual...well, burger and packages them in paper. So, it could have been worse.
AND I had a couple of interesting lapses during the week itself. I walked out of helping move some stuff for the radio station and there were free industrial cookies on a table. I thoughtlessly picked one up and started to eat it! The waste...the not homemade. Oh well. At least I noticed. And the week after I also ate too much candy.

On the upside, I developed the habit of turning off the TV/VCR/DVD player via the power strip they are hooked to. This saves the electricity they all pull 24/7/365 to stay warmed up. I also quit using a timer on the living room lamp. It wasn't pulling much power with the low-watt CFL bulb, but still. I have the kitchen radio/CD player unplugged unless I"m using it (easier than putting a power strip on it) and I've always unplugged all kitchen appliances when not in use. I moved the even more water restrictive shower head to the main bathroom (the one where I actually use the shower. It has better power but due to the aeration, the water at the head is HOT and down near one's feet is significantly colder. I can deal with it though. An even bigger savings than just the water restriction feather is the little "shut off" switch on the head so you don't need to keep the shower going the whole time. I did have a 5 minute timer in the shower but it fell in the water. I had plugged the drain while showering to track how much water I was using with the regular low-flow head vs the shut off head (about 4 inches down to 2 inches so...something less than half because of the shape of the tub at that low level). The timer, which was just a passive hourglass with sand, somehow got water INSIDE the hourglass and died. I spent 50cents on that at a thrift store. What a waste. Oh well. As a final shower type savings, I shut off the hotwater heater during the day (I'll quit this once the temperature is below freezing during the day...do not want frozen hot water heater). It's on overnight because I want hot water in the morning for a shower. So far there has been plenty left to do dishes all day.
I don't know if this shutting off the hot water heater during the day will help the electric bill. We'll see at the end of the month hopefully. There is no real reason to maintain the water at exactly 120 degrees all day (or even all night!). I know it heats up in 2 hours so if I could get up at 4am and turn it on, I could avoid running it all night but that ain't gonna happen. If I lived in an area with cheaper electric at night (many areas have this) it would save significantly to do this no matter what. But, here the town buys bulk electricity and it is billed at one rate no matter the time of consumption. I do know that 2 summers ago when I wasn't here as much and shut the water heater off for a day or two at a time, then on for a day (in summer the water stays plenty hot for 2 days with low use), the meter reader came to the door to ask what I was doing to get the usage so low. I was kind of proud of that. I had also gotten a much more efficient and smaller refrigerator.

Other left overs of the No Impact week include a renewed awareness of waste production before the product even gets to me. It's one reason I like to get shoes resoled rather than replace them even if the price of resoling is almost the price of new shoes. There is much less waste. The local guy gets sheets of "soles" and cuts them to fit the show. There is some waste in the production and application, but I suspect no more than the waste of putting the original soles on there. If I bought new shoes there'd be waste for the uppers, the laces, the packaging and the shipping and on and on. I can avoid that.

It also reminds me why I buy cell phone batteries rather than a new cell phone until the phone is non-functional. The battery will be wasted when I replace the phone anyway. And a cell phone produces over 165pounds of waste just being made. A new battery produces less since it is only part of a new cell phone.

I've decreased water use, power use, waste production and increased my awareness of things again so despite some annoyances in how the first No Impact Week was managed (like having online surveys each day that didn't account for those of us already doing low impact things like walk to work), it's helped me refocus a bit and make some progress.

How dull was that?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vinegar or Deadly Poison? Fishbait or Gross Crap Sitting on the Cedar Chest?

So some days I can see myself through others' eyes.

Today I put fruit bits (apple cores left over from making breakfast bars for the week) in a mason jar with filtered water and some honey. According to a couple of websites, in 2-3 weeks, I will have vinegar.
We'll see. I'll report back.

Friday we got free steelhead (see Unca Pat! You should visit. I often have steelhead in the freezer) at work. I wasn't going to take any fish since they said they only had 100. But, as I walked by looking forlornly at the truck with the GIANT cooler in the back, the guys were just there alone. They hollered and I went over and got a fish. As I was cleaning it (trying steaks this time because I don't have the space or the knife to filet them properly...also lacking in skills). When I cut it open there were 2 large egg sacks full of pretty pink roe. I've cured salmon eggs before, which are larger, to use for bait. I checked and sure enough, you can cure these for bait as well. Well...not "you" so much as "I" can cure them for bait.

Several websites said to use commercial egg cure. Who the hell would buy that? I went back to my old recipe: Let the eggs dry a bit, cut into bite size chunks, pour 1/4inch of borax in a shallow dish or pan, put the bite size chunks in so they don't touch and sprinkly more borax over the top. Let it sit out where it will get some air and turn the chunks over a couple times a day. After 2-3 days the chunks are dry and rubbery. I'll freeze them or vaccuum seal them. There are elaborate little plastic mesh squares you can buy (in this case I do mean "you" because I would never buy plastic mesh squares to feed to fish) and use to wrap up loose eggs into smaller bits, more like amuse-bouches for fish. But seriously. I got the eggs for free and I have the borax on hand for laundry (and will NOT be reusing this borax for laundry or cleaning...unless I clean more fish, I could scrub the fish cleaning board with it or I could pour it on the next dead cat along the road to speed the mummification process or I could flush it and call that cleaning the pipes...so I guess I will reuse it in some form...anyway...) and I just could not see going out and spending several dollars for commercial cure and tiny plastic mesh squares and handcrafting fish treats. I'll let you know if they get used for fish bait and if they are successful.I was looking around the trailer with 2 living room chairs piled with folded shirts and pants I'm trying to sort for goodwill (because I still do not need 17 tank tops to wear under other shirts or 12 pairs of jeans some in size 8...who am I kidding?), a jar of fruit bits with honey and water covered with a cloth napkin rather than a lid sitting on the cedar chest waiting for natural yeast spores to magically turn it into vinegar, and a world war 2 GI issue stew plate (never used by the military) filled with borax and steelhead trout egg chunks. To me it looks like progress in getting rid of some extra crap and in learning to make things out of what would otherwise be wasted. Things that could later bring some enjoyment (like a nice vinaigrette from the vinegar or more fish caught with the eggs). But if someone stopped by and saw all that, along with the little pail of scraps for compost (worms or regular), two plastic tubs full of worms in newspaper eating old food bits, and laundry hung in the bedrooms; perhaps the observer would not see these as signs of success.

Oh well. To each his own.

In other news it freaking SNOWED all afternoon in Plummer. I drove through it to go watch stickgame for a while at the casino. The snow didn't stick until dark and I haven't looked outside in a few hours. I don't know if it's still sticking and I don't really want to know.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What To Do With Cherry Juice?

I found some canned cherries from 2 years ago. Gram (my personal extension agent) said that as long as the lids weren't bulged, there was no leakage, and everything smelled fine, they would still be good. They can last for a few years. The official canning references say "1 year"...but seriously, what would make them magically go bad at 1 year? If they were properly sterilized during canning and were sealed well, then they should be fine.

I thought about it. Checked the jar. Tried to smell it but I've never been good at smelling food. When I was a kid I had no sense of smell (allergies and a pretty much continuous respiratory infection made me a mouth breather without a sense of smell...too stuffed up). So still if I smell milk or a container of something, I can't tell if it's good or bad. The cherries smelled like cherries though so I figured they were fine. If I die of botulism, Pam can have the contents of the trailer. If I must die of something, I hope it's pie.

This brings me to the cherry juice. I poured the cherries out into am collander over a bowl. I poured the juice back in the jar. In summer I add sugar (because I can in a light syrup) and put it in the hummingbird feeder.

But what does one do with it in winter? I'm not making fruit cocktail or jello. Maybe I could make lemonade and add it, but it's cold out, not lemonade weather. I'm making breakfast bars today or tomorrow and can probably use it then.

If anyone has a better idea, let me know.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Picking a Nit

As my faithful reader knows, I'm a fan of the "Tightwad Gazette" volumes 1-3.
One of the things the author, Amy Dacyczyn (spelling?), did now and then when
she was still publishing her newsletter (later bundled and sold as the
volumes) was to figure savings of real and hypothetical tightwad moves.

The calculation that is bothering me is the savings of using cloth vs paper
napkins. She came up with a savings of a penny or two per napkin use event if
one uses cloth napkins, especially if said napkins were obtained for free
(which mine were) or made from other items like old t-shirts or sheets.
She figured the per napkin cost of purchasing paper napkins and the per napkin
cost of laundering cloth ones. There were assumptions like one would not put
cloth napkins in the dryer (thus saving the cost of electricity or gas for
that) and that one paper napkin per person per meal is used.
I think one of her assumptions was flawed and resulted in calculating a
savings that is lower than it should be.

She assumed that cloth napkins would be laundered after each use.
When I was in France each person had a particular napkin ring and the cloth
napkins were returned to a drawer after each meal and taken out again for the
next. They were used for a week before laundered. I use mine now several
times before laundering, but I probably don't go a whole week. Anyway, I
probably get 8-10 meals per napkin before laundering.

SO: the savings for me would be comparable to not using 8-10 paper napkins vs
using 1 paper napkin.
I'm not positive, but I think there is also a net benefit to the environment
by washing cloth napkins rather than using paper which must be manufactured
each time.

Thanks to Pam for the first dozen napkins, Aunt Chris for the formal napkins
and tea towel with horses on them, and to Aunt Billie for the hand embroidered
napkins. So, I have 20 cloth napkins. The fancy ones get less use than the
industrial dozen, but with 20 I've never run out. They wash well with the 3
or 4 dozen thin cotton dishtowels (mostly embroidered with days of the week)
and various dish clothes (no disposable sponges...not just because they cost
money but also because I'm too hard on them and they disintegrate in a few
days of use).

If I knew how much paper napkins costs I could calculate the savings but Amy
already did that anyway and I know I'm saving several times more than she
calculated so that's good enough.