December 2, 2013 § 24 Comments
In 1984 the local garbage hauler launched curbside pick-up of recyclables in our town. We were issued a small blue box for glass, big blue bin for co-mingled recyclables, gray bin for yard waste, green bin for garbage. It’s a good feeling to get everything all sorted out.
How are we doing? Official statistics look good. In 1992, 9 million pounds of material was “repurposed.” This past year, 62 million pounds. Yeah!
Wait. What does “repurposed” mean?
1. Glass: The machines which sort glass are expensive. Our town doesn’t have one. Best case: glass is crushed and used as drainage material or for roads. Usually it goes to the dump.
2. Plastic: Most is sent to China for recycling. Last year China announced a new Green Fence policy, and stopped taking all but the cleanest, tidiest bales of plastic, and only certain types. If it there is a number 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 on the bottom of a container, China won’t take it, so it’s probably getting dumped in a landfill.
3. Cardboard: Has to be clean. Greasy pizza boxes with cheese stuck on them? To the dump.
4. Block styrofoam. This has never been picked up curbside, but for awhile there were places willing to take it. Not now. Everybody’s storage spaces are full of the stuff.
Luckily, several local breweries offer a waste-free option to drown our sorrows with while we contemplate next moves.
How goes the recycling efforts in your town? Time to lose ourselves in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch?
November 11, 2013 § 10 Comments
Ninety five years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Germany signed a treaty with the Allies to mark the end of World War I. There were over 37 million casualties.
The Armistice marked hardly more than a pause for breath. Soon after, Japan invaded China, Germany invaded Poland, France and the United Kingdom. Italy teamed up with Germany, conflict spread to Africa and the Soviet Union and Pearl Harbor, and on it went. We’re masters of self-inflicted misery, more like fire ants than the rational beings we’d like to think ourselves. Put up your dukes.
November 11th: remember the War to End All Wars and try to keep a straight face.
Veterans deserve a day of their own. If we don’t want to clutter the calendar with more federal holidays, there’s a good candidate coming up. The ode to pilgrims is getting stale.
Let’s save the moments of silence for the day when we’re feasting with our families. Let’s leave flowers on the graves when it’s darker and colder, use Thanksgiving to thank the soldiers who served and continue to serve, and November 11 to remember the folly of fooling ourselves that wars end war.
October 2, 2013 § 12 Comments
Go ahead. Don’t be afraid. Download that new operating system for your iPhone. Experts galore are online, ready to help. For most of us non-techies, the difference is mostly cosmetic, but the system does seem to work a tad faster, and has some cool/grotesque (depending on your taste) graphics. Warning: BACK UP your iPhone via iCloud or iTunes first! Here’s how: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1766
Five things that might stump you:
1. In G-mail, the spam option disappeared. The new word for spam is “junk.” That seems appropriate.
2. After the update, I had trouble editing notes. Instead of getting the familiar keyboard pop-up and magnifying glass editor, I only got the cut and paste options. The trick? Do not hold your finger on the screen for longer than a millisecond. The lightest tap brings up the keyboard.
3. Your battery might run out of juice faster than it used to, even if you turn off or delete some of the apps you don’t use. Here are a couple of new battery gobbling iOS features that you might want to turn on only occasionally, or maybe even live without.
- AirDrop. This lets you transfer things quickly between Apple devices. It’s not something I’ll use very often. To turn off, go to the home screen, open the Control screen by sliding your finger from the bottom to top on your phone. You’ll get an image like this:
The “AirDrop” icon is in the lower third of the screen. Tap to turn on or off.
- Parallax gives a 3 dimensional look to things on the screen. It is kind of cool, but makes some people carsick. If you’d rather extend the life of your battery, go to Settings > General > Accessibility, and > switch Reduce Motion to “On.”
4. Calendar. Having trouble making sense of the new one? I missed the old “list” feature, which allowed scrolling quickly through events scheduled, day by day. It’s still there! Tap the magnifying glass in the upper right corner to activate it. Note also that by tapping the year in the upper left corner, you get the entire calendar for the year. Tap again, and you return to the current month.
5. In case you decide to do some housekeeping by updating your Apple I.D. from the old e-mail address you used in college to the one you’ve been using for the last 10 years — you’ll discover that editing I.D. via iTunes doesn’t automatically sync everything else, which means that you won’t be able to sign on to see the New York Times, or download app updates, or anything else that requires signing in.
Ignore all the advice floating around about signing into the old e-mail again, and going back and forth with verifications and all the rest. The fix is simple: on your phone, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store > Tap on your Apple I.D. which will be highlighted in blue > tap on Sign Out > Sign in again with your new I.D.
Voila! What tricks have you found to save me hours of frustration?
September 5, 2013 § 18 Comments
To the Traffic Sign Wizards in Eugene: We’re still waiting…
Spot the “bicycle crossing” signs:
Curb cutout for bicyclists:
Time for the annual appeal to the city Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and the Assistant Traffic Engineer to beg for better signage on this bicycle route. Join me! It just takes a few clicks. Here’s a link to the City of Eugene’s Transportation Department web page, with e-mail links for bicycle and transportation coordinators: https://www.eugene-or.gov/index.aspx?NID=487
August 14, 2013 § 22 Comments
1. Visa. If you live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C., not a problem. Go to the Chinese Embassy and get one. If you don’t, here’s the deal: the rules require someone to physically walk into a Chinese embassy. It doesn’t have to be you. We used a travel agent, but many Americans use an agency like My China Visa. Allow three weeks, start to finish. Yes, it is nerve-wracking to send your passport and hard earned cash off to an agency that might or might not be reputable. Check out agency reviews and comparison shop first! As of this writing, the cost was about $225 for agent fees, shipping and consular fees. Expedited applications cost extra. For specifics see the Chinese Embassy website. Note: proofread your application carefully, and fill EVERYTHING in, including hotel reservations, with confirmations from the hotels.
2. Practice squatting.
3. Practice using chopsticks. Don’t worry about tidiness. Bring that noodle bowl up to your face and slurp those babies up.
4. A guide – human or electronic. Few people on the street speak English, and Chinese cities are not great places to wander around in, hoping for a find. There are finds every 10 feet, but you’ll miss them without help. Five years ago, you probably needed a human guide, period, and if you are traveling outside the major cities, you still need one. China is westernizing rapidly, however. Many street signs in the large cities have English letters as well as Chinese characters, and if you have an iPhone, and an international data plan, you can get around nicely on your own. In nine days, we used about $30 of data and GPS’d our way around Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Trip Advisor has a free app with downloadable maps of all three cities, and walking routes that are frequently updated by users. Warning: this works best with two of you, one to navigate using the phone, and one to watch where you’re going. (Coming soon: a future post on safely using personal electronics when visiting China.)
5. If you can, spring for a comfortable hotel. After a day wandering the streets, which can be crowded and dusty, it’s really, really nice to have a retreat, and China offers some spectacular options.
6. Friends. Nothing beats help from an insider. Look up old acquaintances or friends of friends and offer to take them out for a meal or tea in exchange for tips on using public transit, getting to a uncrowded spot on the Great Wall, a back street tour or restaurant that you’d otherwise miss.
I arrived in China ready for deprivation and difficulties, but instead, had one wondrous adventure after another. This is a country on the move, full of ambition, change and contagious energy. Prepare well, ahead of time, and then be ready to let go and have fun.
July 11, 2013 § 10 Comments
Canola ban clears Legislature
I’m flag waving today because round 1 in the Willamette Valley canola battle went to the specialty seed farmers, a group that consists largely of smaller-scale operations. Grass roots politics work!
Canola is an all right crop — just don’t bring it here. Businesses from all over the world order Willamette valley seeds, many varieties of which are organic. Canola was banned in a 3.6 million acre portion of the valley because it cross-breeds with other plants in the same genus (mustard, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale and more), and is susceptible to, and spreads, disease and pests. Also, 95% of it is genetically modified, although this wasn’t part of the official fight against it. The other problems were enough.
I wrote earlier (Rapeseed, Gas vs. Grass) about an underhanded attempt by the Oregon Farm Bureau (good friends of Dow Chemical, Syngenta and Monsanto) and the Department of Agriculture to pass an under-the-wire “temporary exception” to the ban on canola. Temporary, of course, would haven meant an opportunity for canola to spread and become permanent.
Thanks to farmers who showed up for hearings, organizations like the Friends of Family Farmers who spread the word, and volunteers who wrote to legislators and attended rallies, the Oregon State Legislature just banned canola in the valley until 2019, and allocated money to study the effects of canola on other crops.
A sweet victory for Oregon seed farmers, and for those of us who fear we can’t make a difference. We can.
June 27, 2013 § 7 Comments
At last report, the Oregon Department of Agriculture was accepting comments on whether to allow canola, a.k.a. rapeseed, in the 3.7 million acre protected agricultural zone in the Willamette valley.
Canola can legally be grown in much of the state, but the protected zone is home to a $50 million/year specialty seed industry, and genetic purity drives the business. Canola cross-pollinates with other crops, spreads easily and is notorious for transmitting disease and pests, so it’s a problem here. Also, although you won’t find this mentioned in official reporting, 95% percent of canola is genetically modified. In Oregon, the Department of Agriculture doesn’t distinguish between GM and natural canola, hence no official discussion of the matter, but the truth is, once Round-up Ready canola mixes with other brassica, it is darn near impossible to get rid of it.
Last fall the Oregon Department of Agriculture issued a quiet, some say sneaky, ruling (at 5 p.m. on a Friday night) allowing a temporary exception to the ban on canola, so farmers can grow it as a rotation crop and, with state and federal energy tax credits, to press as an oil for fuel. Seed growers feared, with good reason, that temporarily admitting canola would mean a de facto end to international demand for organic cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, mustards, kohlrabi and other brassica seed crops.
At a public hearing in September, 99% of the speakers, including biologists from Oregon State University, opposed allowing canola in the valley. Funny thing — while representatives from the big GM seed companies didn’t testify at the hearing, it’s hard to imagine a few weren’t around for the annual Farm Bureau Classic, a golf tournament sponsored by Monsanto, DOW and Syngenta, which was held the day before.
The Department of Agriculture issued a ruling allowing canola into part of the protected area. Undeterred, specialty seed crop farmers, biologists and activists kept the pressure on, and this week the Oregon House, rebuffed the Department of Agriculture and passed HB 2427, which would prohibit canola in the valley until 2019, and provide money to Oregon State University to study the risks of cross-pollination and disease. It now moves to the Senate. If this is an issue you care about, contact your (or an) Oregon State Senator, a.s.a.p! Here’s how. For more information: see Friends of Family Farmers, and The online research magazine for the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station