Monday, March 27, 2006

Oil from sand

Today's front page article in the WSJ, "As Prices Surge, Oil Giants Turn Sludge Into Gold,"by Russell Gold, (paid subscription required) is sobering reading.

The article focuses on the oil sands in Canada and the oil company Total. It costs much more to extract "heavy-oil" than light crude. The environmental impact is also significantly higher. These two paragraphs are next to each other in the article:
In northern Alberta, the oil-sands boom is remaking the landscape. The mining operations have clear-cut thousands of acres of trees and dug 200-foot-deep pits. The region is dotted with large man-made lakes filled with leftover waste from the mining operations. To chase off migratory birds, propane cannons go off at random intervals and scarecrows stand guard on floating barrels.

Alberta's energy minister, Greg Melchin, says oil-sands development creates a minimal environmental disturbance that is outweighed by the opportunities and jobs created. "It's worth it. There is a cost to it, but the benefits are substantially greater," he said.
Another cost is the huge amount of carbon dioxide generated by extracting the heavy-oil.
Canada, which exports more oil to the U.S. than any other country, already is having trouble meeting its pledge to cut CO2 emissions largely because of its mushrooming heavy-oil production. By 2015, Canada's Fort McMurray region, population 61,000, is expected to emit more greenhouse gases than Denmark, a country of 5.4 million people.
The descriptions of the machines used in "mining" the oil are pretty amazing, too. Cranes with buckets that can dig up 100 tons in one scoop; dump trucks that are two stories high and loaded weigh the same as a 747; machines that wash out the oil from the sand leaving toxic waste water that fill lakes.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pasadena Victorian homes

I was graciously given a ticket to a home tour of six Pasadena-area Victorian homes, presented by Pasadena Heritage. It was an enjoyable afternoon of driving around the city and seeing behind gates and inside homes, one of which I drive by everyday on my way home from work (Hillmont).

I was reminded of the importance and value of preserving and restoring the heritage of the past. And I thought of my grandfather's barn. I most likely will never own an historic Pasadena home, but my family has inherited a small farm. How can we preserve our heritage?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Biking again

After not biking to work for some weeks, I started again on Thursday. Now, the sun has just come up when I leave the house at 6:00 a.m., and it's still somewhat light when I arrive home. The ride went pretty well, although I need to build up speed and endurance still (again). One improvement: my aunt suggested padded biking shorts, so I bought a padded pair of liners to wear under my warm-ups. The padding certainly makes a difference for my tailbone!

Friday night I rode to a meeting not far from my house but very uphill. I just checked Bike Metro, which appears to be working again. It gave a distance of 3.36 miles with an elevation gain of 410 feet. I think my route was longer and more of it uphill. Oh well, next time I'll have to check Bike Metro first and hope the site is functioning.

Today I rode from my house to the Farmer's Market and then over to my friends' house to go hiking with them, about 7 1/2 miles (downhill and then flat). The ride home was about 2 2/3 miles, with an elevation gain of 145 feet.

Now I am very sleepy from all the exercise and fresh air!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Silkie's comin' to town

How fun is this? A chicken owned by a family whose Sugar Creek Farm Web site I read regularly is one of two finalists for the publicity for the DVD release of the movie Chicken Little.

So the family and their chicken are flying to Los Angeles from Iowa next week. I hope Silkie Chicken is selected!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Rice cakes!

This Christmas I received a family newsletter from someone I attended boarding school with while growing up in Zambia. Linda was one of my "big sisters"; each of the "little" girls (Grades 1 and 2) was assigned an older girl (Grades 7 to 9) who took care of them for a term. In the absence of parents, the big sisters helped their little sisters do their hair in the morning and after swimming and were generally responsible for making sure their little sisters got to where they needed to be on time.

I met Linda again at the school reunion another friend and I helped plan a few summers ago and about which Linda wrote an excellent report.

In her Christmas letter, Linda included the address for her family's Web site. I've since enjoyed following their activities and having a glimpse into a very different life from mine.

I especially enjoy Linda's reminiscences of boarding school days. And yesterday she posted an illustrated recipe for rice cakes (scroll down). As she mentions, we had rice cakes EVERY DAY for breakfast, after the bowl of cracked corn porridge and before the toast was served.

Two rice cakes were served on square, plastic, yellow plates with a dab of Marmite, except on Wednesday and Sunday mornings, when the rice cakes were served with plain tomato sauce (also know as catsup or ketchup) or sardines/pilchards in sauce. If two rice cakes weren't enough, you could line up for "seconds"; generally, there were no rice cakes left over at the end of breakfast.

Rice cakes for breakfast is a fond memory shared by generations of our school's former pupils. If you ate rice cakes every day (except when home on holidays) for up to nine years, you, too, might gasp in delight when you came across the treasured recipe and immediately write a long post on your own Web site, as a tribute to the memory of rice cakes.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hidden Art...and boots

Jeff made a comment some days ago that if his house were burning down, one of the books he would grab as he was running out would be Rainbows for a Fallen World. One of the reasons I purchased the book was that Mr. Borger's review compared it to a book that was on my parents' shelves when I was growing up, Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer. Published in 1971, Hidden Art's chapters suggest simple ways to be creative in the ordinary things of life—music, gardening, recreation, food, etc.

I loved the pen and ink illustrations and was persuaded by Schaeffer's preference for natural materials versus synthetic fibers and plastic items.

A few years ago, I was happy to find, through Powells, the same edition of the book I had read growing up. (The book has been republished also, but with a new title that downplays the "art" to market to people looking for "homemaking" books.)

Looking through the book again, after Jeff's comment, I was enticed by Schaeffer's description of her and her husband's walking outfits in the "Creative Recreation" chapter.
Fran and I have old ski jackets, knee breeches with woolen knee socks and boots that lace up tightly and are big enough for an extra pair of socks. The boots have good, thick, mountain climbing soles. We do not need to be climbing to appreciate these soles. I have found that the boots [...] give one the sense of having seven league boots—that is, that the boots are carrying one along in the way the everyday shoes just cannot do. (p. 171)
So Saturday morning, which was rainy and cold, I put on my hiking boots to go to the women's study at church. Then I strode about the almost empty Farmer's Market, where I purchased a low chill Sunshine Blue dwarf blueberry bush, partially, I'm sure, because the boots made me feel more like a farmer somehow. Later, I walked to the library.

Now I want a pair of breeches and must knit a pair of woolen knee socks! However, I don't live in Switzerland, as the Schaeffers did, so will probably stick with my hiking sandals for most days here in So. Cal.!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Evening rain

As I walked to my car in the rain this evening, I thought of this sentence by Matthew Ketly in Reflections of a Trappist Hermit, as quoted in Space for God:
A walk in an evening rain in any setting is to walk in the midst of God's loving attention to [God's] earth, and, like baptism, is no simple washing. (p. 66)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nuns who blog

Via Mrs. Pilkington Knits, I eventually came across Grace-full Thoughts, the blog of Sister Catherine Grace. She belongs to an order of Anglican nuns whose primary vocation is eco-spiritual education. One of their communities lives on a farm, where they "are working to create a garden community which fosters a sustainable way of life."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Just an ordinary (weekend) day

A break in the rain brought a beautiful, clear, sunny day in So. Cal. A bolt had sheered off that holds the weight-bearing side of my bike rack, so I rode over to Berg Hardware to buy replacements. Three sets of bolts, washers, and nuts for $1.14. Next I rode up to the Farmer's Market to buy fruit. Then I stopped by the Armenian grocery store near home for milk, bread, and marjoram. They even carry organic milk now, although only ultra-pasturized, whole milk. It struck me that I'm now quite familiar with that route, including on which streets to "stair-step" on the uphill ride home.

Then I finished removing the concrete in the back yard and dug out a big rock in my garden spot.

In the afternoon I went with the pastor of my church to see As You Like It at Cal Tech, in which a church member played a leading role. I was reluctant to be inside on a sunny afternoon (although it did cloud over a little), but it was probably for the best. There is only so much sledge hammering and digging an office worker should do at one time!

Now, I'm finishing reading and preparing for the book discussion tomorrow. I'm not quite sure how the discussion will go or how best to lead it. We'll see!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Listening and seeing

Notes for this Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.
    ~~From an article by Lisa Dahill in The Lutheran (Feb. 2006; paid subscription required) summarizing Bonhoeffer's book, The Cost of Discipleship:
    The center of discipleship is connection to Jesus, a life spent growing in the perceived clarity of Jesus' call, gaze and touch. Listening for his voice, keeping our eyes centered on him, staying in touch with him: This is a relationship of tremendous intimacy sustained by love. [...]

    [Jesus'] call comes as the in-breaking voice of God—announcing a new form of life in radical discontinuity with the old.

    The voice of Jesus creates a reality in which people are invited to live.
    ~~From Sunday's Gospel reading about the transfiguration of Jesus:
    [F]rom the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. (Mark 9:7-8)
    ~~From Monday's reading in Exodus 19, just before the giving of the commandments:
    Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. (Exodus 19:17-19)
    ~~From the first chapter in Volf's book, Free of Charge, on our (false) images of God versus God's reality:
    We...need eyes and ears that can recognize the true knowledge of God when we come across it. [...] Our eyes and ears need a heart ready to receive the truth of God's reality rather than one that longs for the comforts of false gods. (p. 23)