Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour

Yesterday my sister asked if I was planning to participate in Earth Hour. Once I knew about it, I had to participate. Here is an excerpt from the site:

"Earth Hour 2008 was a remarkable global event, and in towns and cities across America people "turned out" to lend their voice to the worldwide call for action on climate change.

On March 29th, people everywhere turned off their lights–to make a statement, to help find new ways to reduce their impact on the environment, and to start a movement that ends with a solution to the common challenge we all face."

So at 8pm PST I turned off the computer, the printer, the television, the DVD player and all of the lights. I lit a couple of candles and sat, thinking about how I live and the impact it has on the planet. One of the first things I discovered was how many little green/orange/red indicator lights still burned, showing the electricity I was still sucking from the grid. A tour of my small abode uncovered 19 such lights. 7 were power strips. Also on was the wireless hub, the computer speakers, the backup drive, 2 clocks, 2 nightlights, the CO2 detector, the VCR, the cordless phone, and an odd light switch that glows. A look in the garage uncovered 3 more lights, all associated with the garage door opener. Why so many surge protectors? 1956 house. Why not shut off the wireless hub? It can take hours to get it connected again. I did manage to shut off 3 of the strips.

So, did that one hour make much of an impact on the health of the planet? Maybe not, but it did make an impact on my own outlook, and firmed up my resolve to pay more attention to the little ways I can help. Ultimately, both large and small efforts will be required to stabilize the planet and provide a decent standard of living for the future. One of my favorite quotes is a proverb (I once heard it is Ethiopian, but I am not sure): "When spiderwebs unite they can tie up a lion".

I am not promising huge things, but I will start by turning out the lights every once in a while.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Southwestern interlude

I recently took a quick trip to Tucson, Arizona for a conference. I love Tucson. It was my home for many years, and living there contributed greatly to my love of saturated color and nature-inspired folk arts. This was a quick trip, but happily I had some of the final day to wander about the historic El Presidio neighborhood and take some pictures.

Just down the way from my hotel was a beautiful little pocket-sized park. Two men were tending it; clearly an older man and his grown son. I complemented them on the design and upkeep of the park and the older man told me how he helped to build the park over 25 years ago and he and his son come back regularly to maintain it. It is clearly a labor of love.

I wandered through Old Town Artesans, a set of old abobe buildings set around a courtyard that are home to shops selling art and handcrafts, some wonderful and some not. My favorite was a shop filled to the rafters with a jumble of Mexican folk art.

Houses in the El Presidio neighborhood primarily date back to 1900-1940 and include wonderful mission revival bungalows with wide front porches and courtyard gardens filled with colorful bougainvillea and orange and olive trees.

The area borders on downtown and includes the Tucson Museum of Art. I had enough time to tour the Museum (sorry, no photos allowed) and its restored historic homes dating from 1850 and 1907. Well worth a visit if you are ever in Tucson.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Brief Oasis

Spring is slipping in and will pass faster than an otter into the waves. The busier I get, the easier it is to miss the special moments in the sun. Luckily I have friends like Allison who provide the occasional calm oasis of spinning and laughing in her wonderful garden! Here are a few pictures from last Sunday.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Thinking ahead

As is usually the case, the snow is still melting, yet I am thinking ahead to the summer. I already know that I will have severely limited free time this year (due to work stuff) so I will have to plan carefully to maximize my time. There are two big projects. First, I really do need to get on with building the wall in my front yard. Once it is done I can put in some white lavender. Second, I need to take the front aluminum "skin" off my trailer and fix the rotted wood around the front window. Since I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, this will be a big job for me. I suspect there will be some 2-person moments, such as when I take out the window. I have been browsing the internet for advice. On one site they describe taking the skin panels off and screwing them to the side of their barn so they don't get wrinkled. I don't have a barn and I can't screw through the asbestos siding on my garage. I'm glad I found this site because it never occurred to me that I need a place to store the panels. I wonder if they are too big to layer with blankets and store in the back of my truck? I'll have to measure.

Until yesterday I had been slightly torn about how much effort to put into my trailer. Despite still loving her compactness, it became clear on her first trip that having a single dinette that converts to a bed is awkward. It requires finding someplace to stow the bedding during the day, and makes taking a quick nap a production. Also, her lack of storage space convinced me to remove the port-a-potty to make room for somewhere to stow my clothes (and the bedding). I had pretty much concluded that I would eventually trade up to a slightly larger model.

No longer the case. I spent part of yesterday morning in the trailer measuring and plotting. The key is to give up on my fancy wood-burned table. I never used it much anyway. Instead I will leave the bed set up at all times. My duffel (or baskets of clothes) will slide under the bed. I will make seat pillows for the exposed ends of the benches. I will build a drop-down desk top and attach it to the wall below the coat rack. I will find a wooden TV tray-style folding table that can be set out when I want a place to eat (the 2 bench ends will provide seating for 2). I will cut the bench lids so that it is easier to access the under-bench storage. And, since the bedding will stay on the bed and the clothes will be under the bed, I will be able to restore the potty closet to its former purpose. Tada! Still small and cute, but more practical.

Of course this means that I will no longer have my fancy table as a focal point. Maybe I can do something interesting with the bedding. I have some fiber-reactive dyes I have never tried. Tie-dyed bed sheets, maybe?....