Sunday, November 25, 2007

Product Review: www.Spadester.com

As many of you may know, I am a huge online Spades Player. I recently went looking on the internet for a new place to find a challenging game and I came across www.spadester.com. Spadester claims to have (as of today) Over 4350 players at their tables. That sounded great to me so I signed up and played a few games to get the feel of it. (While I was playing I did notice that the whole game site only had 120 players total online so the 4350 number is completely wrong, maybe even fraudulent.) The play was ok, nice quick games but the level of play was on par with playing the robots in Yahoo Spades. No real challenges and I took the win on 8 games out of 10 games played. The cool-sounding thing about this site is that you can play for cash! I figured that with a win ratio of 8/10 games, I should be able to win some serious cash on this site.

I have never been one to give my credit card over the internet without assurance that it is a secure site. That is when www.spadester.com fell apart. The website is owned by a company in Cyprus, and for anyone who knows anything about credit cards and the internet, this is a huge red flag. Giving out your credit card to a Cyprus company is legally equal to giving your credit card to one of the 419 Nigirian scammers that say you have inherited 22 million bux. It is just not a good idea no matter how small the amount. And, if you look at the terms of service, you will see Section 4.3 states: "You agree that the Site is not liable for any loss caused by any unauthorized use of your credit card or other method of payment by a third party in connection with the Site." RED FLAG!

They do also take PayPal which is a little safer so I continued to check out the site. I noticed that when I played partners, I paid a fee of say, .50c, and the payout is $1.50 but in actuality a win only returns .50c to my account. With 4 players paying .50c and the total being paid out is only $1.00 so Spadester is taking 50% of every game played as pairs? Even 25% is very steep for a gaming site but 50% is out of reason. All of the Partners game paid out this way. I looked for an explanation of the rules and payouts but couldn't find very much and what there is is very inconsistent. I concede that this is a new website, so this may just be a case of working the bugs out.

Something that is important to me as a spades player is clearly defined rules. 15 minutes worth of looking into the rules listed on spadester's game site and I realized that there is very little correlation between the games I have played and the rules listed on the site. The rules seem to have been taken from some other site and then not edited to match the games available on spadester. The rules mention 500 point games, 200 for blind nil and 10 bag penalties, the games offer 100-300 point games, 100 for blind nil, and 5 bag penalties. Those are some very big discrepancies in my game book.

Finally, after an hour on the site, I could not find a clear method of payout. A couple of places mentioned $20 minimum payout, another place mentioned checks being sent out on the 5th and 20th of the month. Without a clear system of payouts, I have to conclude that the company doesn't plan on making very many payouts.

Over all, at this time I have to give www.spadester.com a "Two Thumbs Down" for:
1) lack of fair play 50% house take is ridiculous even for an on-line gaming site.
2) lack of assurance for credit card safety.
3) Unclear rules of play
4) General "Shadiness" of the website and company.

If you just want to play spades, with fast games and no chat--this is a good site for you. Do not be tempted to play cash here...it would be cheaper and faster to just post your credit card number in the lobby of a Yahoo Spades room.

Update May 16, 2008:
Spadester.com is still a SCAM!
Recent comments found:
shoot19....I've got to agree with this. this is the biggest scam I've seen in a while.. they will take your money in a second and come up with excuses not to pay out, and then eventually they will just ignore you.. do a chargeback on your credit card.

kevolt.....As I wrote above, my withdrawal requests have been pending for many months. My emails have been ignored, except for a couple a weeks ago when I got a response from Julie S. (Customer Care) who say she'd expedite through Accounting. I waited a week, and nothing happened. The spadester chat seemed to be online, so I tried that. The chat person said they'd expedite and would send me an email. I then got an email from Cindy G. (Manager of Accounting) that said the problem would be taken care of. Now it's been another week, and still no money and still no change in the status of my withdrawal requests - they are all listed as pending with a status that still says just "Requested".

fyndet3....Hi!
I just want to give all a heads up about Spadester.com. I have tried to get a respons from them for about 2 months now. But still no answer. I am going to write about this in casinomeister since they dont respond to affiliates either who are trying to help me. Sad just think twice before depositing here!

It seems that even 4 months later, nothing has really changed.
Level of play seems to be approaching "Beginner" I played 8 games and won 6 so this is a slight improvement over my last visit. Note: I haven't been playing Spades at all in the last month so maybe I have slipped a little.
The website no longer claims 4000+ player online. My actual count today was around 400 on the PlayMoney side and about 200 on the RealMoney side.
Winning pots are better. The Site seems to be raking 10-12% but this may just be due to bad math skills more than greed as I did spot 1 table that was 9%.
Credit card security is still questionable. With no mailing address or support from any kind of "Verisign" group, I would be very very careful about giving any information at all. In an age of Identity Theft, any site that not only asks for my name and credit card but also my Social Security number and birth date raises some very real concerns. They are not taking PayPal anymore. Want to bet they got so many Charge-Backs that PayPal canceled them? If you do decide to try it, buy a rechargable visa gift card instead of a real credit card.

Still a generally fun site to play fast cards but still 2 thumbs down for over-all shadiness.

No matter what Saar claims, this site is not living up to their promises, has horrible customer service and when cash is involved, tightfisted and unresponsive.

June 27, 2008 Update
New withdrawl notes--- Higher minimums, more paperwork, more personal information needed, Longer waiting periods.


Withdrawal Information:
  1. When making a withdrawal, Spadester will most likely request that players send a copy of the front of their credit cards (with only the last 4 digits showing) and a copy of their ID.
  2. Documents can be sent via email to support@spadester.com
  3. Players depositing with an Alternative Payment Method, and withdrawing with the same method may be asked to send in a copy of their ID/passport only.
  4. Once players have sent their documents, and their accounts have been updated; players will not be required to do so again, unless they have registered a new credit card, at which point we will only require a copy of the front of the new credit card.
  5. Payouts will take up to 30 business days to be processed unless otherwise specified.
  6. Players will pay the full cost of processing should they accept their withdrawal (for withdrawals of $200+) via wire transfer which may be up to $30
  7. Players must play a minimum of 10 games before they are eligible to withdraw.
  8. Players are welcome to withdraw up to 10 times a month or up to $1000
  9. All withdrawals must be made in the amount of $40 or more.
  10. Any withdrawal requests that do not fit within the guidelines of the Spadester withdrawal policy will be declined and the money returned to the player’s account.
  11. We ask that all players provide their full details (including residential address) in order for us to be able to process a withdrawal
No improvements so far.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

10 Real Jobs for the Stay at Home Mom (Or Dad!)

1) Child daycare. Each child you care for should amount to about $100 per week in income depending on where you live.

2) Doggy Daycare & Walking. Here in Seattle, people pay nearly as much to drop off their dogs for the day as they do their kids. What's really weird tho is that childcare workers make minimum wage-$7.75 per hour. Doggy Daycare workers and dog walkers make $15.00 per hour!

3) Sewing and mending services. People pay $2.00 to replace a jeans zipper and $4.00 to hem a pair of pants. A custom prom dress runs $200 and up.

4) Have bake sales. Cook up a bunch of goodies and then have a combo garage and bake sale. I always make more money on the baked goods than I do on the garage sale but people will not stop to look unless I call it a "Garage Sale." A dozen homemade cookies is $5.00 or more.

5) Grow plants and have periodic plant sales. I recently purchased 1 very over grown spider plant at a store and split it up into over 100 small plants. In the spring these will sell for around $2-5 apiece!

6) I do Ebay but in a rather unique way. All of the stuff I sell on Ebay I get for FREE. Examples are woodland ferns, native plants, Ivy, driftwood, etc. Take a walk with the kids and make it a treasure hunt. Stuff that are weeds and junk to me are exotic to people in New York!

7) Make jewelry out of beads and wire and put them on consignment at spas and jewelry stores.

8) Learn a skill like desktop publishing or transcription or web design. The more flexible and knowledgeable you get the more jobs you will get.

9) Schedule appointments for a local builder. Many companies need phone people to set up appointments for inspections, construction estimates, etc.

10) Figure out what you love to do and then work out a way to get paid for it. If you love soap operas, find someone to pay you to write about them. If you love crafts, make them and sell them!

Good luck!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Freezer Savings-Look Before You Leap!

Freezers use energy a different rates depending on the age of the machine, type and total size. There is also a wide variance between manufacturers so shop for the best energy deal that you can find. The average freezer is in operation for over 25 years...more than long enough to make up the initial cost in energy savings.

Energy usage for some Kenmore Freezers:
5.0 cu. ft. Upright Freezer - 321 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
13.7 cu. ft. upright - 621 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
16.7 cu. ft. Upright Freezer - 682 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
20.3 cu. ft. Upright Freezer - 763 Kilowatt Hrs per Year

If you haven't bought a freezer yet then consider a chest freezer. The energy savings can be quite a bit.

5.0 cu. ft. Manual Defrost Chest Freezer - 242 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
13 cu. ft. Chest Freezer - 326 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
Elite 19.7 cu. ft. Chest Freezer - 435 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
19.7 cu. ft. Commercial Chest Freezer - 488 Kilowatt Hrs per Year

To save even more on freezers usage:
Buy a new freezer if yours is more than 10 years old.
Keep the door shut
Keep the freezer in a cool garage rather than in a heated space
Keep the freezer full
Keep an ongoing list of contents on the door so you do not have to rummage around to find stuff.
Keep the compressor coils clear from the wall and clean often.
Turn off the auto-defrost cycle and only turn it back on when it really needs to be defrosted.

A letter to http://www.thebulb.com

I found this company that claims to produce a carbon free CFL and I had so many questions that I had to write to the company for clarification. I will post any answer that I may receive.

The letter:
I found your website through carbonfund.org and I am still a little skeptical about CFLs. My concerns are about the total costs of CFLs compared to incandescent. I have seen a lot of comparisons between energy and replacement costs and those numbers do favor the CFLs. What about the other costs associated with CFLs?

Packaging: the CFLs available at Lowe's and Walmart in my area are packaged in a hard plastic clam-shell as opposed to a card board sleeve for the incandescents. Since Walmart's stated goal is the sale of 6,000,000 units then packaging is an important consideration. Is the impact of packaging included in your CFL math?

Toxicity: Regular light bulbs are fairly nontoxic and break down into glass, aluminum, a bit of brass, and a little argon gas. All fairly simple and non-toxic. CFL bulbs on the other hand contain argon and mercury vapor and phosphors. These toxic chemicals are a very small percentage, I agree, but when I think about having 6 or 12 in my house it does start to add up. In fact, it really adds up when I consider that 134,475,214 CFLs have been purchased in the last 14 months. Each bulb contains 5-6 mg of mercury. That is : ((134 475 214 / .005) / 28) / 16 = 60,033,577.7 Pounds of Mercury and only about 15% are actually being recycled. That adds up to 51,028,541 Pounds of mercury is being added to American landfills every year.

Worker Safety: My regular light bulbs are made by Americans, working good wage jobs in St Louis Missouri (GE is planning to close this factory in 2008) Philips Lighting has its corporate office in Somerset, New Jersey with manufacturing plants in Danville, KY; Bath, NY; Salina, KS; Fairmont, WV; Paris, TX. CFL's are made by hand in China by workers who make a dollar or two per day while being exposed to Mercury Vapor on a daily basis. Are they getting enough protection? Is enough being done to protect the families and living areas of these workers?

Transportation: Regular bulbs travel up to 500 miles by truck and train(with American drivers) to reach consumers across America. CFL's travel thousands of miles on ships that are under little or no regulation concerning fuel economy, ocean dumping and fuel spills. Is transportation figured into the operations cost for CFL bulbs?

Disposal: In my area, I need to drive about 5 miles to take CFLs to the recycler and they do not accept broken CFLs. Other people do not have the facilities within 100 miles of them. What is the actual cost of disposing of the bulbs correctly and the penalty if 6,000,000 bulbs end up in landfills next year? CFLs are also very touchy! In 5 years I have broken at least 6, or about 1/3 of what I have bought. Any plans in the near future to accept damaged bulbs for recycling???

I am also curious about the actual recycling system for CFLs. What happens to them, exactly, after I return them for recycling? Are they melted down or crushed?? Both would add addition energy costs to each bulb.

There are a lot more issues to consider than just the costs of the bulbs or the electricity used to run them. How much more cost would be added if we have to worry about how it's made, who is making it, how it's transported and how it is disposed of?

Vickie in Seattle, WA

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What are you willing to give up to slow global warming?

What are you willing to give up to slow global warming?

Things that need to be phased out and out-right banned for the good of the planet:

1) Petroleum based motor sports. Make these sports based on alcohol fuels or get rid of them altogether. Why? Most modern gas engines are engineered on race cars. By making the motor sports industry focus on alcohol fuels we will tap into terrific innovations in making alcohol fuels, cleaner burning engines, and greater performance.

2) Corn based food products such as High-fructose corn syrup and corn oil. Why? These products are generally unhealthy and fattening for humans and should be taken out of the public diet and diverted into domestic fuel production. Since 1966, the US has used an increasing share of the corn crop to make High-fructose corn syrup and since 1966 the average American has gained 60 pounds. The best thing we can possibly do with this product is get it out of the diet and into the fuel tank. Or, even better would be to replace all corn with lower input grasses such as Sweet Sorgum or switchgrass and then turn these crops into fuel. Soda drinks alone make up about 9% of the average diet and replacing that 9 % with a zero calorie alternative would amount to a weight loss of about 20 pounds for each American in just the first year.

3) Strawberries in January. Why? The luxury of having food out of season is out of reason compared to the environmental damage associated with transporting the specialty food long distances to market. Most produce grown for this purpose must be hybrid to survive transport, sprayed with many different chemicals to retard spoilage, and shipped in refrigerated containers that use even more energy to maintain the food. This practice is expensive and globally evil considering the total energy input required to get peaches to Safeway in February. This practice needs to be stopped completely and countries need to return to the practice of growing the foods their own people need locally.

4) SUV's, and pickup trucks. Why? No one in the United States should own any vehicle that gets less than 30 miles per gallon. If you need a pickup you should rent it buy the hour instead of driving one everyday "just in case" you might need it. Get things delivered instead of having the upkeep of a energy expensive gas hog. Many people drive an SUV because they think it is safer but The larger SUV's have a completely different (and lower) standard for crash testing, crushing and airbag deployment. These were never designed to be the primary vehicle, therefore they do not have to meet the same requirements as a designated passenger vehicle.

5) Single-Use Plastic. Why? That is a good question.....why do we allow ANY plastic to be made that is not recyclable? Currently less that 5% of the plastics used in the US are types that are considered for recycling. Plastic is pretty much forever so if we had to keep the other 95% forever we would be pushed out of our homes by the mountain of single-use plastics that enter our lives each year. Luckily for us we can send it to the dump, but the time of being able to dump anything and everything is coming to an end. Currently the Pacific Ocean is sporting a brand new island known as the Pacific Garbage Patch- plastic wastes massing twice the size of the State of Texas. This is where a large portion of the previous 50 years worth of plastic has ended up.All plastics must be made "Cradle to Cradle" meaning they can be infinitely recycled and all plastic manufacturers must be held accountable for their products and take steps to insure that no more of it ends up in landfills or the ocean. Most plastics are made from petroleum--we do not allow used oil to be dumped into storm drains and we need to take steps to stop other petroleum products such as plastic from leaving the materials flow and being wasted in a dump site.

6) Travel. Why? Travel for pleasure is a tremendous waste of natural resources compared to vacationing in your own area. Travel for other than business is a waste that needs to be curtailed. 40 years ago our parents and grandparents saved up for their once-in-a-lifetime trip, today we charge the tickets on our credit card and jump to Hawaii for the weekend just because we can afford it. We never seem to think about what this is doing to our environment because the damage in out of sight. Stay home and invest that money in something that will help the planet because the earth cannot afford it anymore.

7) Public Venues. Why? Despite the amount of cash that is raised by concerts, sporting events, and other huge events, the truth is that these gatherings are terrible for the environment. Teams and performers need to travel to the events, people have to travel to the event, huge buildings are heated and cooled and tons of garbage are produced. Look at the aftermath of any parade and it is obvious that the mess is not worth it. The amounts of energy used to fuel 1 pro football game is staggering and the social benefit of such events are pretty much non-existent. With bird flu and other diseases on the horizon, large public assemblies need to be phased out for health and environmental concerns. Socially desirable programs can be televised to paying customers who wish to pay for the privilege. Others who prefer to opt out will enjoy the benefits of not having to get caught in the traffic snarls or having to put up with the trash dropped by attendees.

8) Bigger Anything. Why? In a period of uncertainty concerning the future, it is even more important to keep things in perspective. A moments thought will reveal the simple fact that bigger is definitely not better for the environment. Bigger TV's, bigger houses, bigger computers, games, and just about everything else multiply the energy used per person. It is time to scale back....get smaller more efficient appliances, live smaller, travel smaller. It is kind of silly to buy a huge house, then have to buy a huge TV so you can see it from across the room when you could buy a smaller house and mount a tiny TV on the arm of the sofa.

9) Made in China. America's dependence on cheap goods made around the world is second only to our dependence on foreign oil. The idea of a $1.00 toy being made in China and then shipped to a Dollar Store or Walmart in the US is sickening. The idea of disposable $49 DVD Players takes all social responsibility out of the equation. Buying items that we will throw away next year has got to stop and be replaced by durable goods that can be rebuilt or repaired. The first VCR that hit the market could be cleaned and repaired by a local craftsman. Nothing sold today is meant to be repaired at all so more waste builds up every year. How long can we continue this pattern? How much stuff can each of us throw away and replace with another cheap item before we are literally buried in junk?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

How much do you know about going Green?

Test your knowledge of "Green Technology"

Solar panels are good for the environment-True or False?

Toyota Prius batteries are collected back by Toyota and recycled-True or False?

Cloth grocery bags are better for the environment than plastic bags-True or False?

Everyone should install CFL bulbs to help stop global warming-True or False?

America collects 2 million pounds of rechargeable batteries for recycling every year-True or False?

If we don't switch to Solar panels and wind power, America will run out of energy in my lifetime-True or False?


FALSE. Solar panels(and CFL's) are made in China in huge factories with little or no environmental regulation. Typically the land around one of these Super-Factories is dead all the way down to the bedrock due to heavy metal contamination and industrial runoff. While these products do help the environment in the US and in the UK, the countries that manufacture them suffer. When you add up the damage and subtract the benefits the sum still equals horrific environmental damage rather savings.

FALSE. Toyota does collect Prius batteries for recycling but so far the technology has not reached a point where any batteries have actually been recycled. The batteries being collected are being warehoused in China for a future time when it becomes feasible to recycle them. Another note: While Toyota basks in the Green glow of the Prius, they also build and sell the worlds largest private use pickup trucks, the Toyota Tundra, a pickup with the dubious claim to fame as being the worst gas mileage pickup on the market.

FALSE. Already, most cloth grocery bags on the market are made in China or India. The environmental damage of making these bags and shipping them 10,000 miles negates the environmental savings that would make them desirable. Best solution: Re-use the plastic bags you already have for as long as possible and then make your own bags from reused materials.

FALSE. CFL's bulbs have several problems that make them less than environmentally friendly. While the mercury content of a single bulb is manageable, the impact of 150,000,000 bulbs is dramatic and ominous. (1 bulb in each home in America) Think ahead before you buy: where will you dispose of the bulb when you are done with it? If you have to drive more than 5 miles to take the bulb to a recycler then it isn't saving energy at all. You are just trading electrical savings for gasoline usage.

FALSE. America collects 220 million pounds of batteries for recycling, most are warehoused and about 2% are actually recycled as of 2007.

FALSE. Free energy sources are the Holy Grail for America but the environmental expense of individual solar or wind power systems is staggering. It takes about 1000 solar cells ($20,000 worth) to power a medium sized American home. Obviously that expense takes it out of reach for most people. Thankfully, America does have enough power for a couple hundred more years at current usage and up to 500 years if we conserve more. Alternate fossil fuels, nuclear power and biomass can sustain the US but what we do not have is CHEAP fuel, aka light sweet crude that we buy from overseas. The lights will stay on but the price is going up.


Mass marketing tells America that we can "buy" green and save the future. This is false advertising of the worst kind. There isn't a single thing that you can buy that is actually going to make your lifestyle greener because every item requires a manufacturing process that negates the claims of being green. To actually add some "green" to your lifestyle then dump the advertising campaigns and try something new:

1) Participate in the "Hundred Mile Diet"
http://100milediet.org/

2) Spend a "Year Without China"
http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2007/07/19/my_year_without_made_in_china/
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20303002/site/newsweek/

3) Live more Frugally
http://www.betterbudgeting.com/frugalliving.htm
http://frugalliving.about.com/

4) Drive less and treat your car to a complete tune-up.
http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/driving.html

5) Grow a portion of your food:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_agriculture
http://www.diynetwork.com/diy/fv_organic/article/0,2029,DIY_13826_2269893,00.html
http://urbanagriculture-news.com/

6) Unplug what you are not using.

7) Trade DOWN to smaller TVs and household appliances.

8) Consider working toward a 1 income household and let the home maker actually cook, grow food, and take care of the home. Or, better yet work toward 1 person in the house being a telecommuter.
[This is one that I have become very successful at. I am a telecommuter-I work about 30 hours per week from my home. I also cook every meal from scratch, home can and freeze foods for the future, make wine, bake bread, grow a garden, shop sales, recycle throwaways into useful items, make quilts, etc. Since to switched to telecommuting, I not only make the same take home pay as before but I do not pay for prepared food, home care services, wardrobe, or car expenses. It was an excellent move for my family.]

9) Buy less.

10) Use less

Those are the Top Ten things you can do to help the environment and stop Global Warming.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Batteries Vs. Petrolium-Which is worse?

This may be a good case for the old adage "The devil we know is better than the devil we don't know."

Battery recycling has been a long debated issue that first began with lead car batteries and continues in the age of NiCad and Lithium batteries. Every producer of these new batteries says that the batteries are "recyclable" but what does that really mean? In the case of lead batteries, a global Greenpeace investigation of automobile lead-acid battery collection programs has revealed a massive flow of these extremely toxic wastes from heavily industrialized countries -- particularly Australia, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. -- to many Third World countries, particularly in Asia.

The main factors causing the lead battery waste trade are typical to all waste trade schemes: in industrial countries, the environmental and occupational health regulatory cost of operating lead battery recycling facilities is ever-increasing, and the prices offered for secondary lead are low. It is simply not profitable to operate secondary lead smelters in many industrial countries. Battery brokers are finding more profitable markets in places where workers are paid little, and environmental and workplace regulations are weak and/or unenforced.

The end result of this free trade in toxic waste: thousands of workers and children suffering from lead blood poisoning, rivers and air loaded with lead emissions, and big profits for the lead battery brokers and manufacturers.(1)

Rechargeable batteries are proving to be a challenge when it comes to recycling. While NiCad and Lithium batteries are recyclable in Theory, the actual process is proving to be a bit messy.

The UK's foremost agency for recycling batteries admits that, "For alkaline and zinc carbon batteries, which are the most common types, the UK hasn’t got a full process yet, but we are developing a hydrometallurgical system."(2) Currently the UK is actually recycling about 4% of the non-lead batteries that are discarded each year. (They do recycle about 90% of all discarded lead batteries.)(4)

In the United States the sheer number of these batteries is staggering. According to the U.S.E.P.A 220 MILLION Pounds of batteries and small electronic devices (cell phones & PDA's) enter the waste stream every year. Currently, about 50% are tossed into the trash bucket, and 50% are collected for recycling. Only about 2% of the collected materials are actually recycled, most of this waste is warehoused or sold to Asian countries, mainly China. (3)

It is very easy to make the choice to pick a product that is "recyclable" but it is very difficult to direct how the recycling will be done and where it will be done. The US currently has some pretty well tested laws concerning petroleum controls and nearly none concerning rechargeable battery recycling. Our laws say the companies must take them back but not what the companies need to do with them once they have them. Until those laws go into effect then we will have to live with the consequences.







1) http://www.things.org/~jym/greenpeace/myth-of-battery-recycling.html
2) http://www.wrap.org.uk/local_authorities/batteries/battery_recycling_information/qa_processing.html
3) http://www.biggreenbox.com/Page.bok?template=faq#GSA
4) http://www.letsrecycle.com/equipment/batteries.jsp

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Restaurant Conspiracy-Continued

The new Quiznos commercial shows a Subway Sub next to a Quiznos Sub....and everyone agrees the Quiznos Sub is much better. What the commercial fails to mention is that the Quiznos Sub contains 5 times as many calories! Subway's 6 inch Sub is about 550 calories and the small Quiznos Sub is about 1850 calories. OK, it is better....but is it 1300 calories better?

I am seeing quite a few restaurants that fail to disclose their calorie counts: TGI Fridays, Olive Garden, etc. Seems like these places are actually hiding the nutritional information on most of their foods. At least McDonalds has the balls to be honest about 600 calorie burgers! TGIF has a Jack Daniels Cheese Burger that serves up 1750 calories!!! Super-Size Fries are lightweights (570) compared to Cheesy-Fries (3015). Love pasta? Olive Garden keeps most of their menu secret...why? Because Pasta Alfredo and 3 breadsticks is 2250 calories and their chicken salad is over 1000. Denny's does have their info online...Country Sausage Platter is 2100 calories and has 4 ounces of pure fat!

The harder people try to maintain or lose weight, the worse the options become for healthy dining! It is scary to think that McDonalds may be one of the healthiest menus available only surpassed by Subway (which is actually going out of their way to offer healthy foods.)

Since the 1950's we have been eating out more and more and as a group we are gaining weight. Now I see why....to get our patronage these restaurants stuff their foods full of oils and calories and then refuse to talk about nutritional info!



Resturants defend their non-action by saying that low calorie items are available as well as splurge items but the problem with that is how are diners supposed to tell the difference? For many years I have ordered appetizers instead of full meals thinking that I was getting lower calories and now I find out that the meal STARTERS are over 2000 calories by themselves! As if that isn't bad enough similar entree's calorie count varies widely between different chains. At your typical Mexican restaurant, the two plate-sized (white) fl our tortillas stuffed with melted cheese and with sour cream and guacamole on the side can run you 900 calories but at On The Border a very similar meal hits a whopping 1860 calories.

Some of the “X-Treme Eating” options highlighted in the March issue of CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter include:

• Ruby Tuesday’s “Colossal Burger.” Ruby Tuesday actually became the first big chain to put nutrition information on its menus. Unfortunately it scrapped that initiative, presumably because it meant the sale of fewer Colossal Burgers. With 1,940 calories and 141 grams of fat (more than two days’ worth!), one of these megaburgers is equivalent to about five McDonald’s Quarter Pounders.

• Uno Chicago Grill’s “Pizza Skins.” “We start with our famous deep dish crust, add mozzarella and red bliss mashed potatoes, and top it off with crispy bacon, cheddar, and sour cream,” says the menu. The menu doesn’t disclose that this fusion of pizza and potato skins—which is meant to precede a meal of pizza—packs 2,050 calories, 48 grams of saturated fat, and 3,140 milligrams of sodium (more than a day’s worth). “Even if you split it with two other people, it’s like eating dinner before your dinner even hits the table,” Jacobson said.

• Ruby Tuesday’s “Fresh Chicken & Broccoli Pasta.” Pity the poor diner who thinks this healthy sounding entrĂ©e is on the light side: Thanks to its Parmesan cream sauce and layer of melted cheese, the 2,060 calories and 128 grams of fat make it the equivalent of two 12-ounce sirloin steaks, two buttered baked potatoes, and two Caesar salads. (CSPI calls this dish “Angioplasta.”) At least Ruby Tuesday has the guts to give out menu information!
Eat at Ruby Tuesdays?? Try the Point Reyes Blue Cheese Chips as an appetizer, Alpine Swiss Burger, Fries with ranch dressing, fresh strawberries and ice cream for dessert. Split that between 2 people and serve with a glass of wine apiece. Even split in half it's 1750 calories EACH. Thats right 1 "meal" can be 3484 calories!

• Cheesecake Factory’s “Chris’ Outrageous Chocolate Cake.” There’s room enough on Cheesecake Factory’s sprawling menu for advertisements, but evidently no room for nutrition information. If one is undecided among brownie, pie, or cheesecake for dessert, this 1,380-calorie menu item helpfully provides all of the above. It’s the equivalent of eating two Quarter Pounders plus a large fries—for dessert.

Federal MEAL Acts were introduced in the U.S. House and Senate in the last Congress, but restaurants in New York have avoided the menu guidelines so far, stating, "It's is impossible to fit enough information on the menu to be useful to consumers." Nutritional front runner, Subway has taken the step toward menu labeling with little effort, new menus feature the calories counts of each item.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Great Plastic Menace

No matter how careful I am about recycling, reducing, and re-using, I still end up with many pieces of plastic going into my trash. I get all these little bits and pieces that are just not recyclable by any currently available system.

According to the Energy Information Administration the average American garbage can is 11% plastic by weight and 25% plastic by volume.(1) I am blessed to live in an area that offers pretty good recycling options.(2) I can recycle plastic jugs and bottles(not caps), round dairy tubs(not lids) and plastic shopping bags(no paper receipts and wet ones go in the trash).
So now I am left with all the plastic that I can’t recycle like the lids, plastic wrap, 6-pack rings, bread bags etc, etc. As a crafty person, I re-purpose a lot of these items into usable stuff: I made a beautiful lamp out of CD’s for example, but the majority of this waste plastic is overwhelming.

A little research has made me aware of just how big a problem plastics are becoming in the ocean. Visualize an island twice the size of Texas. Now look closer and realize the “island” is actually made of discarded plastic. Nasty, huh?? A vast landscape of traffic cones, milk jugs, Bic lighters and plastic bags, TWICE THE SIZE OF TEXAS!(4)

What is even worse is that sea life becomes entangled in the mess, eats the shiny pieces and even feeds the plastic bits to their offspring. More than a million seabirds die from ingesting lighters and bottle caps instead of food. Thousands of birds wash ashore dead with their bellies full of tampon applicators, construction cut-outs and pretty scraps. One bird was documented with over 1600 pieces of plastic in it’s gullet. (4)An estimated 100,000 marine mammals per year are killed as a direct result of plastic. We seize up over the Makah Indians killing a gray whale(6) but yet we allow plastics to contaminate the sea?

Where does all this food sized plastic come from? Mostly from us. Each day we handle dozens of small pieces of plastic(hand sized or smaller) and each piece gets discarded in turn when we are done with it; a piece of tape here, a bottle cap there, a foam ear plug, maybe-the list goes on and on. Once it passes out of our hands, we do not feel the responsibility anymore. We did the right thing by recycling what we could and “safely” disposed of the rest. Except that “safe disposal” only means safe for us. it doesn’t mean safe for birds, or safe for animals, and it definitely doesn’t mean safe for the Earth.

Lately I came across a new thought: What if all the plastic that we brought into our homes had to stay in our homes forever? No more throwing it away, ever! What if every single piece became our responsibility for the rest of our lives? How would that impact us and how could we deal with all that plastic? Well on a global scale that is exactly what we are doing. We are creating plastics that we will have to deal with for thousands of years. In fact, “Except for the small amount that’s been incinerated-and it’s a very small amount-every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”(4)

A Personal Experiment: for the past 2 weeks I have been separating out everything that is neither biodegradable or recyclable and already it is starting to add up. Old lighters, plastic wrap, lids, rings and those evil supermarket receipts printed on toxic paper.(3) I have about 10 pounds so far even though I am actually very careful about accepting plastics, in fact, I think about every single piece of plastic like it is radioactive! Each piece I touch makes me wonder, “Do I like this enough to bring it into my life forever?” The point is to actually see how much plastic I use. And I actually plan to live with it for a while -my goal is a year.

I have sewn up some cloth bags to store the trash in. I am packing it down as much as possible and when the bags are full, I plan to strap them together and make something like an ottoman(I hope) and hopefully not a SOFA. I borrowed this idea from Designer, Inna Alesina. Her idea is to use recycled plastic to make pillow forms. Then we would stuff the forms with trash, strap them together and make furniture.(5)

Could you live with a year’s worth of trash? Our planet will be living with all of it, forever, so a year’s worth can’t be too bad, right?



1) http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/saving/recycling/solidwaste/plastics.html
2) http://www.seattle.gov/util/Services/Recycling/Recyclable_Items/PLASTIC_2003120207594611.asp
3) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_21_163/ai_102696961
4) http://www.bestlifeonline.com/cms/publish/travel-leisure/Our_oceans_are_turning_into_plastic_are_we.shtml
5) http://www.alesinadesign.com/fill_it.html

6) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003878034_webmakah10m.html

As long as companies are allowed to produce a single scrap of non-recyclable material, that material is going to end up in the ocean. The key is not curb-side recycling but rather stopping the problem at the source. Make EVERY item recyclable, period.


Update, June 28,2008

I am still saving my plastic scraps and I have about 30 pounds on hand now. The first 15 pounds were sold as an ottoman at my last garage sale for $5.00. It was a bundle of plastic scraps about 16 inches square, upolstered in a black velvet I scored at the Goodwill Store. ;-) Seems that people will buy anything for the right price!

Extinction: Tragedy or Destiny?

Should endangered animals be saved? Every single species has a potential for extinction and millions of species have already gone extinct without any interference from humans. Humans have also been the direct cause of several extinctions including dodo birds, Tasmanian tigers, and passenger pigeons. Was it wrong? Of course it was, but could we have saved them? Probably not.

Currently polar bears are in real danger of extinction due to human actions. Thousands are starving to death every year and the numbers a declining at such a rate that humans likely will not be able to stop it. But should we make heroic efforts to save them, maybe not. Without their natural habitat, polar bears will need to be artificially supported throughout their individual lives. This means either the bears end up in zoos(much like what has happened to pandas) or we would have to track each bear and make sure that each one is getting enough to eat every day of their lives. And, someone would have to be responsible for killing seals to feed to polar bears.

Polar bears are declining because they are not able to adapt to their changing environment quickly enough. If we can stop polar melting they would have a chance but if we can't do that then it is better to let the species pass into history than it is to put them all in zoos eating horse meat for the rest of their lives.

The same is true for all endangered species. If we can't fix the main problem that is causing the extinction then it makes no sense to preserve a species by dooming that species to live in an unnatural state.

Would you keep the last passenger pigeon in a cage to preserve it from extinction or let it fly free for it last remaining days?

Monday, September 10, 2007

The real cost of CFL Bulbs.

Every website about global warming urges us to "replace one regular bulb with the new CFL and save X tons of CO2 emissions." The first CFL I bought came wrapped in a non-recyclable clam shell casing roughly the size of a small shoe box. What is eco-friendly about that? My regular light bulbs come in a simple, RECYCLABLE paper box. WalMart has stated that their sales goal of CFL's for 2007 is 6,000,000 units. 6 MILLION plastic shoe boxes going into landfills from just one source!

Regular light bulbs are fairly nontoxic and break down into glass, aluminum, a bit of brass, and a little argon gas. All fairly simple and non-toxic. CFL bulbs on the other hand contain argon and mercury vapor and phosphors. These TOXIC chemicals have to be disposed of in special ways-In my case by driving them to the recycling station. If you break a CFL you risk exposing yourself and family to mercury and the bulb is no longer recycleable so mercury is sent to a landfill.

Regular light bulbs are 4/$1. CFL's are still around $3.99 each.

My regular light bulbs are made by Americans, working good wage jobs in St Louis Missouri (GE is planning to close this factory in 2008) Philips Lighting has its corporate office in Somerset, New Jersey with manufacturing plants in Danville, KY; Bath, NY; Salina, KS; Fairmont, WV; Paris, TX. CFL's are made by hand in China by workers who make around 9 CENTS per hour while being exposed to Mercury Vapor on a daily basis.

Regular bulbs travel up to 500 miles by truck and train(with American drivers) to reach consumers across America. CFL's travel thousands of miles on ships manned by low wage foreign sailors.

Regular light bulbs are made mostly in American Factories under the close watch of the EPA, and maintain very high standards concerning air, water and soil contamination. CFL's are made with almost no environmental oversight, causing huge swaths of contaminated ground. The areas around CFL plants in China typically show mercury poisoning in the soil, water and air. These very areas are also, typically where the factory workers live and grow subsistence gardens, thereby ingesting even more mercury.

Regular light bulbs use 60 watts per hour. CFL's use 13 watts per hour. BUT, when I turn the regular bulb off, the energy savings is then equal to or better than the CFL.

As with any of the new eco-friendly products, think before you buy. The actual cost of many of these new ideas can be very steep and cruel when compared to traditional products . In 99% of cases it is much better to use old light bulbs more responsibly than it is to buy the new CFL's. DON'T SWITCH IT OUT--JUST SWITCH IT OFF!


1) http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/108/open_lightbulbs.html
2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4330333.stm
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0WDP/is_2001_August_27/ai_78570218

Thoughts on Personal Furniture...


No matter how careful I am about recycling, reducing, and re-using, I still end up with many pieces of plastic going into my trash. I get all these little bits and pieces that are just not recyclable by any currently available system. In the past I have tossed these items in the trash and hoped for the best but now there is an option: keep it around as Personal Furniture!

Designer Inna Alesina recently presented a design for furniture that is basically recycled plastic shapes that are filled with non-recyclable plastic instead of air. When the shapes are full, they are strapped together to become an ottoman, chair or even a sofa.

I have to say this is a great idea! Since Inna is not currently offering the shapes for sale, I am going to try the same idea using re-purposed fabric. I will make some basic shapes and keep one by the trash can. Instead of tossing those plastic scraps away, I will stuff them into my future living room set!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Composting 401

At this point just about everyone knows to put food scraps in the compost bin but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to composting.

I have a large compost pile that yeilded about 3 cubic feet of beautiful black soil this spring. I compost just about everything possible while still keeping it look like compost and not a garbage dump.

Compost:
Vegetable food scraps
coffee grounds
peelings
tea bags
egg shells
shredded paper
paper plates
small amounts of cardboard
household sweepings and vacuum contents
tissues used for nose blowing
paper egg cartons
house plant trimmings
pencil shavings
outdated vitamins and minerals
small amounts of raw fish.
small amounts of newspaper
Fish tank water & activated charcoal
pet wastes
wine must(sediments from making homemade wine)
sand

Do Not compost:
Heat sensitive paper like fax paper.
meat
bones
grease
plastic
chemicals
styrofoam
drugs
metal shavings
glass
toxic house plants like poinsettia
cooked fish

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Carbon Reduction Verses Saving the Environment??

Lately everyone seems to be getting on the Carbon Footprint bandwagon but I think a majority may be missing an important factor considering how much damage is allowed to the environment in the name of "reducing carbon emissions. Saving the environment is much much harder than the carbon issue in that environmental damage can be a direct result of trying to reduce carbon emissions. Every solar panel, or CF light bulb or rechargeable battery carries with it a legacy of huge environmental damage. Every single item that is manufactured causes pollution somewhere.

The key to actually saving the environment is to stop creating a need for the things that cause the damage. For example, I may want to buy a new Prius hybrid to lower my CO2 emissions but if I did that then I would be contributing to the environmental damage associated with the manufacturing processes including nickel mining in Canada and battery productions in China that have literally killed the areas around the operations right down to the bedrock.

To actually Save the Environment, consider a few of these suggestions:

Keep your car tuned up. Combine trips.

Learn to live with less lighting. Use lamps where you need them instead of lighting up the whole house.

Adjust your home heating and cooling and use layers of clothing to stay comfortable. Heat less of your house. Consolidate your activities to one or two rooms instead of heating and cooling the whole house.

Eat less meat and grow a little garden. Plants trees or tall plants along the sun side of your house to help cool it in the summer. Buy locally-Avoid foods that have to be shipped great distances.

Use what you have longer. Take care of the things you buy so they will last longer. Re-use what you have for other purposes. Donate unneeded items to charity-buy used stuff at charity stores instead of new when possible.

Rethink chemicals. Buy less of them, use less of them. Most cleaners can be cut 50/50 with water and still work well. Be careful of how you dispose of chemicals. Never put anything in your drains that you wouldn't want distilled into drinking water.

Don't drive when you can walk or bike(even a motorcycle is better than a car.) Don't buy new when you can make do or reuse.

Live slower...live with less...maybe then we can ALL live longer and happier.

Shutting Down the CO2 Machine

In 2006 China took over the dubious honor of being the #1 producer of CO2 in the world. American's collectively let out a sigh of relief...."It's not our fault anymore!" And so another falsehood enters into the American Culture. It is now easy to think..."Why should I work so hard to reduce CO2 when I know that China is not?" The hidden truth is that the per capita CO2 emissions in China are still far far below the of the US, it takes about 10 Chinese to make as much CO2 as it takes 1 America. And, when you subtract the CO2 associated with the Chinese industries for export products then the ratio drops to about 25 Chinese to 1 American in CO2 production.

This is because, tragically, China has become #1 by building industries to sell energy efficient products to the US. They build CFL's-We buy them, They build batteries for the Toyota Prius-We buy them, They build solar panels-We buy them. A large portion of "China's" CO2 footprint really belongs to America because we buy the products of their industries.

This is the classic example of the idea of "global" warming is out of step with the current standards for reduction.

The average person in the US tries to REDUCE their carbon footprint by buying energy efficient light bulbs, hybrids and re-usable shopping bags without thinking of where those products come from and what effect those industries are having on their local carbon footprint. This is NOT global thinking and it does NOTHING to alleviate the problem. All we are doing, so far, is moving the mess out of our country. The mess is still being produced but it is "out of sight".

The only solution for reducing carbon dioxide is to MAKE LESS by reusing items we already have (plastic shopping bags and well-tuned small cars) and stop buying new crap that makes more CO2 emissions.

Look around your house and find all the items made in CHINA and know that the CO2 emissions to make those things belongs to YOU!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Paper, Plastic, or Canvas??

Paper, Plastic or Canvas??? This is a question we face with every trip to a store but what is the Best choice? It is easy to say that a reusable canvas tote is the best choice but is it really the best choice? Actual carbon-footprints vary depending on the sources of the bags. Recycled plastic bags are showing up in many markets. Most paper bags are post-consumer recycled paper (not usually from "trees" directly.) Canvas tote bags are costly(compared to plastic or paper) and are mostly made in China under questionable working conditions. When we add up the materials(new canvas), the construction(underpaid workers in bad working conditions), add a huge PLASTIC graphic on the side and shipping across the world, then canvas tote bags get very expensive for the environment and for humans.

To be the MOST eco-friendly, just re-use the bags you already have and save the environmental expense of making new tote bags. Double or triple the old plastic bags and double up on paper bags and they will last through a hundred shopping trips. Or, you could re-use a pair of old jeans and make a tote that will last as long as you do.

At the very least look for bags made of re-used materials (Canvas from sails or denim from old jeans maybe) by someone in your neighborhood.

Beware of any eco-friendly ideas that require the purchase of a new item! Every new item including tote bags require a manufacturing process that adds to the over all problem. Right now, being green is a fad that inspires people to buy more, more, more....in the future being green will mean buy less, use less, and use what you have until it is worn out. When you buy stuff you are feeding the FAD...when you actually start re-using what you already have then you are MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

BTW, I got my Free Tote Bag from Yahoo Answers and it arrived in a PLASTIC BAG and has a huge plastic graphic on the side and it is "Made in India"!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Better-For-You Burgers

Better-For-You Burgers

1/2 pound ground beef.
1 cup fine chopped red(bell) peppers
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped
2 tablespoons of ground black pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt or Seasoned Salt- Try Vegeta(now available at most Safeways)

Mix all together and then form into 4 patties. Fry or grill on medium until browned on both sides. Serve with your favorite burger fixings and oven fries!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Good Things About Global Warming???

There are upsides to Global Change!
1) With a global temperature increase of 2-4 degrees, vast areas of the northern US, Southern Canada, northern UK and central Russia will be available for farming. This is pristine land that has never been farmed before and will more than replace the marginalized farmlands that will eventually turn into desert.

2) Many coastal countries will experience increased rainfall in areas that were deserts including India. Future planning will capture the current floods and irrigate millions of acres for farming.

3) As the polar ice caps melt away, the Northwest Passage will become a reality saving trillions of gallons of fuel in the shipping industry. Vast unreachable oil fields will become accessible in the Arctic Circle-maybe as much as 50% of the total world's oil is waiting there but currently unreachable.

4) More CO2 in the atmosphere helps more plants grow both in nature and in farmlands. Raising the CO2 in a greenhouse by only 1% can increase yields by 25-50%

5) Winter energy needs will decrease as the temperatures in many areas rise above current levels. Air conditioning costs may rise but many big businesses are capturing this excess heat and converting it to usable energy.

6) We will have more days at the beach!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Charities fight the tide of do-gooder fatigue

This story showed up on http://www.csmonitor.com

This was a nice article on what I like to call Martyr Backlash: People who sacrifice to help others and then after seeing no betterment or reciprocation stop their efforts entirely. It is very common even outside the areas of volunteering, people do it all the time. We give money to a certain homeless person, for example, maybe even help that person get into treatment or a program. A month or two and that person is back on the street. It will be a long time before we try to help some other person.

What I would love to see, at this point in my life, concerning the homeless, the poor, food bank clients, and sheltered women, is how much time do they donate? How much do these basically unemployed people volunteer to serve meals or do labor?

Hey CSM, do you have any statistics on that?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Blast from the Past...."Life with Ernie"

I was looking through some old newspapers and came across this gem that I wrote in 2002

Life with Ernie....

My son, like most small children, has a lot of clothing with various action figures, TV cartoons, and toy logos emblazoned on them. Most of them came in sets of a shirt and pants, sometimes even with a jacket or hat. When he was smaller and more malleable it was fun to dress him up in these outfits. He could be Sesame Street or Bob the Builder from head toe, hat to boots.

This last 6 months or so something changed in that he doesn't like all of the pieces of the sets. For example, he will only wear one pair of boots right now (Bob the Builder) and his favorite outfit, clean or not, is a Tazmanian Devil tee-shirt with the Buzz Lightyear sweat pants. Add to that scene with a 101 Dalmatian hat and the Monster's Inc vest. OUCH!

As I got him dressed the other day, I had to wonder if there was some way to take advantage of his clothing preferences. Maybe somewhere there is a sponsorship available like you see on Nascars or athletes. After all, I bet anything he averages more miles a day than any race car and can be a lot faster than most athletes, plus he's cute. Any grandmother type who sees him cannot resist a pinch or two and maybe even a kiss if she is really fast on the pucker.

So, here is my plan.... I'll get some endorsements from companies who market to grannies like Hallmark, Red Heart Yarn Company, and the folks that make those Peptobismo flavored candies and sell them advertising space on Ernie, my own little "Product Endorsement Boy."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Take Control of Your Grocery Spending: On-line!

Taking control of your grocery spending, your diet and maybe even your waste line: Sign-up for on-line grocery shopping and delivery!

I visited Safeway.com and signed up for grocery delivery. Considering how frugal I am, it may seem a little strange that I am willing to pay an extra $7.95 to get groceries delivered. But, ask yourself how many times you have gone to the store to "pick up a few things" and ended up spending twice as much (or more) than you intended? Even worse, how much of that extra cost was unhealthy junk food bought on the spur of the moment?

Another common problem is that I forget to take my carefully prepared shopping list and try to remember what was on it while I am shopping. I end up buying stuff I do not need and forget the stuff I really need. Then, I have to go to the store again!

The solution??? Order exactly what you need without the temptation of seeing all the extra stuff at all. When I order online I can get eggs without walking through the chips & cookies aisle! I can get milk without seeing the baking aisle!

To best take advantage of this great service, sit down and make a list of meals you would like to eat for the next week or so. Then make a list of what you need to buy to make the meals. You can check the pantry and the freezer while you are actually on-line shopping....no more redundant purchases. In every category you will have the option to sort the foods by "A to Z" or by "Price-Lowest first" that alone is a great money saving tool. You can see the price of each product by weight. One cheese may be $10.99 per pound and a similar store brand of cheese may be $5.99 per pound. Once you have made your whole order, you will see that total and be able to add or delete items to make the order fit your exact budget, period! No more nasty surprises at the check stand.

You can use on-line shopping to get control of your food intake too. By actually searching for the items you want to buy, you will become more aware of exactly what you are buying. You can choose lower fat, or lower calorie foods with ease and plan for portioning. For example, we all know we need to eat 3-4 servings of veggies and fruits per day. Basically that means 1 pound of fruits and veggies per person per day. If you are shopping for a week of meals, then you can check the shopping order and make sure there is at least 7 pounds of produce ordered. If you are a single person, you can portion meat more easily by making sure the total weight of the meats on your weekly order is no more than 8 ounces per day--3.5 pounds per week.

I am pretty happy with my on-line shopping so far but there are a few things that I would like to see added:

Currently Safeway.com is not accepting EBT cards(Public Assistance Food Cards), so as usual, the people who might benefit from the service can't use it. EBT card holders are typically using the card to buy much more expensive and much less healthy products from the closest convienence store instead of being able to get good food delivered.

Safeway.com is not accepting manufacturers coupons either so, if you are a clipper then, on-line shopping might not be for you. Personally, I rarely use coupons and if I do, then I take them to the store and buy ONLY those items.

Once the service gets tweeked, I think on-line shopping may become THE way to shop.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Play a Song for Me Apple Jack, Apple Jack....


I simply love homemade Apple Jack!
It's super easy, doesn't take a lot of special supplies and it carries a wallop at 15% alcohol. At about $2.50 per half gallon, it is also one of the cheapest alcoholic drinks, too. In Washington it is perfectly legal to make you own beer and wine, so here is the cheapest way to do it.

Supplies:
Large size party balloon or 1 regular(dry) condom
1 package of dry yeast 1 cup of sugar, honey, or corn sweetener
1 1/2 gallon bottle of pure apple juice. Make sure the apple juice is real 100% juice. This recipe will not work using the fake juices or punch. Let the juice warm to room temperature.

Measure out about 2 cups and reserve it for the end. Pour your sweetener into the juice and shake it until it is dissolved in the juice. Add the package of dry yeast. Add the reserved juice back to the bottle until the level is about the same as when you started with a full bottle.

Use a pin or needle to poke a hole in the balloon or condom, then stretch the rubber over the mouth of the 1/2 gallon bottle. Run your sink full of hot water and stand the half gallon jug in it until the yeast begins to foam(about 30 minutes).

Once it is foaming you can set it to work in a dark fairly warm(65-75 degree) place. Check on your Apple Jack once a week or so. After 2 weeks give it a good gentle shake to knock some of the bubbles out of it. At 3-4 weeks the Apple Jack should be a pale yellow color and nearly clear. Carefully, pour the wine into another container. Be careful not to disturb the sludge at the bottom any more than you have to. Refrigerate and enjoy!

This recipe makes a very dry apple wine. You can sweeten it to taste with sugar or honey.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Forget the Lettuce! Pass the Stinging Nettles!!!

Sorry for not blogging recently, but the fine spring weather means many extra chores at my house. My garden is in and doing well by providing about 50% of our needed veggies. I expect to be veggie-independent sometime next month as the tomatoes and peppers start ripening. One of the things that people have noticed and commented on is that I am "letting my garden be overrun with weeds!" Then I must explain that not all "weeds" are undesirable and that the ones in my garden are well tended and welcome guests. I have about 10 square feet of Stinging Nettles (and nearly as much Dandelion as I have lettuce.) Why?? Because both Dandelion and Nettle contain more food value than ANYTHING ELSE I could possibly grow. So, early this morning I was out in the yard picking Stinging Nettles. This is the best time of the year to replenish lagging vitamin and mineral levels by munching on the potentially itchy plant.

In folk medicine nettle plants have been used as a diuretic, to build the blood, for arthritis and rheumatism. Externally it has been used to improve the appearance of the hair, and is said to be a remedy against oily hair and dandruff.

The stinging sensation of the leaf hairs is caused by several plant chemicals including formic acid, histamine, serotonin, and choline, that are deactivated by boiling. In addition to these chemicals, nettle leaf is rich in minerals, chlorophyll, amino acids, lecithin, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols, tannins and vitamins.

You can read more about the benefits of Stinging Nettles Raintree Nutrition

To gather fresh nettles....SUIT UP! Long sleeves and gloves are a must for this project. I prefer Atlas gloves for this chore and all yard work because the rubber palms get a good grip but do not make your hands sweat like other rubber gloves.

I use a plastic grocery bag to gather the nettles so that I can toss it afterward.

Take your Atlas glove and slide your hand up the stem of the Stinging Nettle, stripping off the leaves as you go. Near the top the stem will snap off too. It tends to naturally break at the point where the stem becomes soft enough to eat. Like most greens, Nettles are mostly water so pick 3-4 quarts of leaves and tops to get about 2 cups of edible greens.

Keep your gloves on while you rinse the Nettles!

To cook Stinging Nettles use a large pot with 2 quarts of water. Stuff the Nettles into the pot and bring to a boil. Dispose of the plastic bag. You may now remove the gloves. Allow the Nettles to boil for at least 5 minutes, stir and turn the nettles to insure that it all gets the boiling temperature. This will kill the stinging cells. Allow the Nettles to cool to room temperature.

I use a stick mixer to grind the greens and release more of the water. I can't imagine a kitchen without one of these handy tools!

Strain the greens but reserve the liquid for Green Tea. Squeeze as much liquid out as possible. The Stinging Nettle now looks exactly like cooked spinach and tastes very similar. Serve as is with butter and pepper or cook it into your favorite recipe in place of spinach.

My Favorite Recipes:


Zeljanica (Spinach Pita)

This is a traditional Bosnia fast food. Think of a hot dog cart, only in Bosnia, you would get this instead. Very yummy and very nutritious, especially when made with cooked stinging nettles, a common herb with huge amounts of vitamins and minerals.

2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup cooked, drained and squeezed dry Stinging Nettles
1 egg
2 Tsp of fresh ground black pepper
--------------------
24 Sheets of Phyllo
2 tbsp Butter


----------------------------------------------

Mix cottage cheese, greens, egg and pepper together.

Spread butter on 3 stacked sheets of phyllo dough. Place 1/8 of cottage cheese mixture in the center of one end. Fold the dough length ways to enclose the filling, brush with butter. Roll up the dough to form a square packet. Brush top with butter. Continue this until you have made 8 packets. Arrange on a dry cookie sheet leaving a space around each one. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until browned and bubbling. Allow to cool nearly to room temperature. This should be accompanied with kiefer (liquid yogurt drink).

Nettle and Navy Bean Soup

4 cups navy beans (soaked 10 hours)
1/2 pound of cooked nettles
3 quarts water
Seasonings to taste

Put all ingredients in a kettle and boil slowly for about 2 hours. Pass through a sieve. Boil for about 1 minute and serve.



Split Pea And Nettle Soup Recipe

5 cups dried peas (soaked 6 hours)
1/2 pound stinging nettles, washed, cleaned, stemmed
1 onion, peeled
3 quarts water
Seasonings to taste


Boil slowly all ingredients together until peas are cooked. This will take about 90 minutes. Pass through a sieve. Bring to a boil and serve with fresh homemade bread rolls.


Nettle Wine

2 quarts Nettle tea (reserved from cooking Nettles)
3.5 lbs granulated sugar
1/2 oz thinly sliced ginger root
7-1/2 pints water
2 lemons
1 tsp yeast nutrient
wine yeast

Thinly peel the lemons and place nettle tea, ginger slices and lemon peelings in 3-quart pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Juice the lemons and put sugar and lemon juice in primary fermenting vessel. Strain nettle tea mixture and pour over sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar and add remaining water. Cover with sanitized cloth and set aside to cool. When room temperature, add yeast nutrient and yeast. After four days of vigorous fermentation, stir well and transfer to secondary and fit airlock. When wine begins to clear, rack into clean secondary and refit airlock. After 3 months, rack into bottles. This wine is drinkable immediately. [Adapted from C.J.J. Berry's First Steps in Winemaking]

Learn to enjoy what you are given by trying at least 1 recipe using one of Mother Nature's most nutritious freebies!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Let's Create Guest Worker Vacations!

Concerning immigration and the labor shortage: http://www.capitalpress.info/main.asp?SectionID=67&SubSectionID=619&ArticleID=32041&TM=48183.9

It has been my experience that anytime a problem is converted to an asset, then everyone concerned wins. An example of this is the bio-diesel industry. A waste product is turned into a desirable commodity and everyone benefits. Maybe it is time to change the way we think about Migrant Workers and farm labor.

Basically, farms have a labor shortage and wage issues. Cities around the country and especially Seattle have a gold mine in bored, middle income, people looking for diversion and exercise outside their usual life. These two issues could be brought into one program that allows city people to do farm labor while calling it a vacation.

I estimate that about 4 million people per year drive from Seattle to the cities of Ocean Shores, Westport and Long View to spend $1000 for a weekend. Given the right options many of these vacationers could be diverted into the farm work force.

I read with interest an article on the impending labor shortages in the food production industries due to crack-downs on illegal immigration. I will not address immigration directly in this message, but I want to put forward an idea that could help farms find a new kind of "Guest Worker".

In the 70's and 80's my parents spent the summers picking fruits and vegetables in Eastern Washington. During that time we lived in a tiny travel trailer and parked at the various farms as we picked our way through the harvest season. As a child, I hated the summers we spent in the dusty, dirty camps, often we were the only gringos working in the area. Compared to the families that lived in the "bunkhouses", our little trailer was a mansion. My friends in Western Washington thought my family was insane to spend the summer working this way, but they all loved the truckload of fruit and vegetables my family brought back with them to split between the neighbors. The last 2 weeks of the summer were spent in a home canning frenzy that would provide food all winter long.

Looking back at the time with more wisdom and a bit of nostalgia I realize that the summers we spent as Migrant Workers offered something that is very hard to come by these days: A job with specific goals and the satisfaction of a job well done.

The average American works a job that typically means repetition and vague goals spread over a large group of workers. There is very little chance to start a project and see it through to a successful end. This 9-5 type of career leads to job and financial security, but doesn't fulfill the basic need to create and grow.

Other industries are taking advantage of this basic unrest by offering working vacations and volunteer vacations, the basic idea being: anyone can enjoy hard work for a week or so and then return to their "real" jobs mentally and physically rested.

I would like to point out a typical website that features working vacations:

http://vocationvacations.com/search/results.php?country=4&state=&general=136789&category=&days=&sPrice=&ePrice=

NOTE: These working vacations cost $599 per person and up for 2 days!

Raising wages is not the only way to attract more workers. I believe that farms could attract workers by taking the focus off the wages being offered and concentrating on the other benefits of being a "Guest Worker" for a week or two each year.


I would love to get feedback on this idea and I would love to brainstorm with anyone who is capable to actually making this possible.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Real Changes You Can Make to Lower CO2 Emissions.

Forget fluorescent bulbs, forget lowering your heat settings. These two things are listed as the "easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint", but really these are a drop in the bucket compared to making lifestyle changes.

Change your lifestyle to make a real difference:

1) Move your household to within walking distance of your work. Make sure there is a decent school, grocery store, and transit access also within walking distance. Save the car for long trips or get rid of it entirely.

2) Get rid of lawns, lawnmowers and ornamental landscaping and replace with food crops. An area of garden space 8 feet square can produce all the vegetables needed for a family of 4. Food gardens are tended by hand rather than mowed, saving tons of CO2 emissions per year. If your home doesn't have a lawn, you can still make use of balconies, parking spaces, and roof tops by using the raised bed method of food production. If you are replacing a large lawn then replant with fruit trees, asparagus and other space hogging produce.

3) Support local farmers and learn to do without foods that must travel great distances to reach the market. Pineapples, mangoes, bananas, and oranges are examples of carbon expensive foods. Choose locally grown produce instead, such as apples, kiwi and cherries.

4) Buy fewer electronic toys and shut electronics off by unplugging them or using a power strip rather than leaving them in "Stand-by mode".

5) Reuse materials first and then recycle what is left. Refuse to buy items that are over packaged. Use cloth shopping bags. Take plastic bags back to the store where you got them, many stores will be happy to re-use them. Re-use plastic food boxes rather than buying tupperware. Refill juice bottles with homemade iced tea.

6) Stop buying bottled water. Get a good filter system and re-use the bottles you have.

7) Put up a clothes line and use it as often as possible. Use gray-water to water your garden. Use less detergents and soaps.

8) Donate usable items to charity and shop in charity stores first for items you need.

9) Take care of items so that they will last longer.

10) AFTER you have mastered the first 9 items on this list, then you can worry about fluorescent lighting and turning your heat down 1 degree.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Fruit and vegetables no longer eligible for Vegan label.

Fully 80% of all fruits and vegetables appearing in American grocery stores and markets are pollinated by CAPTIVE BEES. The philosophy of Veganism prohibits the ingestion or use of ANY product that is made from animal (including insects) flesh or is the result of animals being held captive in order to gather products at their expense.

Captive bees are subjected to same types of unethical treatment that is common for all livestock including feedlot situations(hives are moved from orchard to orchard), robbery of their biological food(royal jelly and honey), and substitution of lower quality foods(sugar water and high fructose corn syrup). Recently, more than 25% of the bee hives in the United States have died due to an unidentified problem that has been labeled Colony Collapse Disorder. The disorder only seems to affect captive bees.

Of course all meat products are Non-vegan. Products such as honey, milk and eggs are also considered non-vegan, and now in light of the widespread use of CAPTIVE BEES in all facets of fruit, vegetable and soy bean production, those products are no longer truly Vegan. If a Vegan can't eat honey, then that person should also reject the other products made possible by the captive bee's efforts.

The TRUE Vegan's diet should now consist of ONLY grains and rice(which do not use bee pollination) and water. No other fruit or vegetables qualify unless the grower is certified to be using wild bees exclusively in crop pollination.

Cats, Dogs, and the Vegan Movement.

I have seen a lot of information on Vegan diets for cats and dogs and I think that whole idea is just WRONG! Vegan's shouldn't keep "pets" at all. Holding a dog or cat hostage is no different than holding a chicken or cow hostage. Why not keep chickens for "pets" and then you can justify eating eggs as a by-product of having pet chickens around.

If you think your cat or dog is better off as a pet, you are wrong. In their natural idea of a life, they would have as many babies as possible and eat everything that they could catch. You probably get your pets fixed and feed them "Science Diet"....at least until it was recalled. This is not what nature intended for cats or dogs so it doesn't jive with the Vegan philosophy.

Using the arguement that dogs and cats are "domesticated" is no excuse for keeping them as pets. Sheep are so domesticated that they cannot survive in the wild in most parts of the world. To right that wrong, each of us should keep one as a pet to insure that it is well looked after. If each Vegan did that, then it would be ok to use the wool, since shearing is a requirement for a sheep's health and well being.

Picking and choosing which animals to use and which animals to abuse is part of the over all pattern of denying animal rights. Using 10,000 years of domestication as an excuse to continue the pattern doesn't make it right. Veganism is a choice to stop using and abusing all living creatures, whether the animal is a cow or a cat. Keeping either one as a pet denies that animal a natural and self-directed life.

Keeping a cat or dog and forcing them to exist on corn, rice and vegetables is just plain wrong. Part of being a good keeper is being prepared to feed that animal the food that is most natural and healthful. If you can't do that, then don't have pets. Or, if you must have pets, then pick pets that are naturally vegetarian.

No Vegan can justify owning another creature, period.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Sad Funeral Announcement.

Dear friends,
It is with the saddest heart that I pass on the following. Please join me in remembering a great icon.

The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly-greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Cap'n Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours as long- time friend, Aunt Jemima, delivered the eulogy, describing Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very "smart" cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he -- even still, as a crusty old man -- was considered a roll model for millions. Toward the end, it was thought he would rise again, but alas, he was no
tart.

Doughboy is survived by his wife, Play Dough; two children, John Dough and Jane Dough; plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about twenty minutes.

;-)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Information Panic and Junk Science

News and information enter our lives in endless torrents, flooding our senses to the overload point. The Media shouts the "news" at us in such a variety of ways that it can be very hard to pick out the real news behind the "news". Every story is trying to grab the headline only to be replaced by a new headline in days or even in minutes. Every "news" story claims to be giving the facts even when the stories conflict with one another. And, every story claims to be using "credible sources" meaning the story is accepted as true. In reality, news stories rarely contain ONLY truth or even ALL the truth. News stories contain the information that the writer wants you to know and nothing else.

Unfortunately writing is learned skill that can be used to the advantage of whoever is writing the paycheck. A story can "prove" just about any point the buyer wants to make. That is why advertising works so well; skilled writers suggest facts based on what they are hired to sell, so we see phrases like, "gets clothes 40% cleaner" 40% cleaner than what??? According to who??? What water temperature did they use???. The statement is based on someone's evaluation and may be true, but isn't a scientific fact that has been proven using accepted scientific practices. This is called "Junk Science"

"Junk Science" covers a whole range of company sponsored tests, studies and panel reviews, as well as unrepeatable clinical studies. Several large pharmaceutical companies have been in the news lately for using Junk Science to get bad drugs approved for human consumption. All science is not created equal and all news stories are not created equal either.

Some of the current sources of information include:
CNN and other news channels.
Discovery and other science based entertainment channels
Internet, including everything from personal websites to Published Scientific Journals
Printed Newspapers such as Seattle PI
News magazines such as Time and Newsweek
Charitable Infomercials like Feed the Children and CBN
Professional Journals like JAMA


News is news right? All news story details should be correct and presented in an unbiased manner right? WRONG! Most news gathering agencies are driven by advertisers that direct what is acceptable news for the publications they support with advertising dollars. Charities present "News" that supports the greatest chance of contributions. Professional Journals publish stories that meet Peer Review and so shun new and revolutionary ideas. Newspapers commonly print full page advertorials that may or may not have the "paid advertisement" notice depending on the paper's policies. Reporters regularly inflate or over-emphasize numbers to create interest in their stories. Most "news" is just hype, created to cause distress in the consumers and profits for the Media, period.

The next time you see a disturbing news story, ask yourself, "Who is profiting from this?" Then, check the citations to see where the journalist got the information. If there are no citations then the writer could have just written it without any facts at all, therefore, the information is useless. If citations are given, consider the sources. Are the sources web pages, blogs, charities, pharmaceutical companies or is the story based on University based clinical studies?? Does the information come from water-cooler gossip or the CDC?

Source evaluation
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Source evaluation is the skill of analysing information sources in order to assess their credibility. The ability to assess different sources of information is highly relevant to the task of operating within a complex information society. Engeldinger (1998) uses the term information literacy in order to describe the ability to recognize information when it is found, and further to determine if it is the best, most accurate, or most current information available.

To understand the news:

1) Look for citations.
2) Check to make sure the citations exist and have been used accurately.
3) Do the math & check it twice.
4) Think for yourself & use logic to decide if the story even makes sense.

For example the website for Inconvenient Truth includes this page:
http://www.climatecrisis.net/thescience/

It lists a group of "facts" about Global Warming and at the bottom gives the citations(Italics are my findings concerning the source cited):

1 According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this era of global warming "is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin" and "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence of the global climate." The IPCC is completely devoted to "Special Report on Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and Global Climate System: Issues Related to Hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons (SROC/SROCF) "The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters." In other words, IPCC is not interested in or paying attention to Global Warming. In fact IPCC is monitoring GLOBAL COOLING due to hydrofluorocarbons.


2 Emanuel, K. 2005. Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436: 686-688. Online here: http://www.mindfully.org/Air/2005/Cyclone-Increasing-Destructive4aug05.htm A well written study but I have to point out that the author cites his own works and this is a big no-no in scientific circles. Also the material covered in the paper only goes back 70 years total so there is no way to know if this trend is new or part of a global cycle.


3 World Health Organization This is an incomplete citation. I did a search and found 600 documents on the web that use this same citation but when I searched on WHO's website not a single article supported this idea. Instead, "Malaria occurs in many regions of the country: the Pacific Coast Region, the Amazonian Region and the Central Region, and it is closely related with population movements resulting from the social situation in the country."

4 Krabill, W., E. Hanna, P. Huybrechts, W. Abdalati, J. Cappelen, B. Csatho, E. Frefick, S. Manizade, C. Martin, J, Sonntag, R. Swift, R. Thomas and J. Yungel. 2004. Greenland Ice Sheet: Increased coastal thinning. Geophysical Research Letters 31. Original Article Not Found.

5 Nature. Incomplete citation. Although 32,000 web pages seem to present this statement, proof of the original study is not available and without knowing what "Nature" refers to, we have no way of finding it.

6 World Health Organization This is an incomplete citation. A search of WHO's website showed no information on deaths caused by Global Warming at all

7 Washington Post, "Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change," Juliet Eilperin, January 29, 2006, Page A1. This is taken out of context. The paragraph this is quoted from:

Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer, who also advises the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said one of the greatest dangers lies in the disintegration of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets, which together hold about 20 percent of the fresh water on the planet. If either of the two sheets disintegrates, sea level could rise nearly 20 feet in the course of a couple of centuries, swamping the southern third of Florida and Manhattan up to the middle of Greenwich Village.



8 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. 2004. Impacts of a Warming Arctic. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Also quoted in Time Magazine, Vicious Cycles, Missy Adams, March 26, 2006. This paper is available online as part of a 1200 page document. The Article "Vicious Cycles" is available here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1177014,00.html
and says "sea levels could rise nearly 220 ft. (72 m). That's a worst-case scenario." Missy Adams is an internet-research journalist that specializes in short essays (375 words seems to be her limit.)

9 Time Magazine, Feeling the Heat, David Bjerklie, March 26, 2006. Quote: One study estimates that more than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by the year 2050 David did not give a citation so I have no idea who did the study. This is the ONLY thing he has written for TIME.


This is a very good case for Junk Science. The Author of this page has used very bad citations and in doing so invalidates the points given on the page.

In closing: Please START THINKING FOR YOURSELF!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

In Favor of Sustainable Building

Housing is an ongoing problem in America. It is expensive, impersonal and for many inadequate and inaccessible. Having a place to call your own is one of the most basic needs for human beings, yet a large portion of us are forced to live in a succession of rental places at the whims of uncaring and greedy landlords. But....that is a rant for another day.

My ancestors came from Ireland, England and Germany mostly in the 1870's and 1880's. Both sets of ancestors eventually made their way across the country to Oregon and then to the Pacific Northwest. When my mother's parents got here the first thing they did was buy a small piece of land and then built a home. The home wasn't fancy, it wasn't huge but it lasted for over 40 years and never carried a mortgage. The oldest part of the home was a log cabin built from the trees on the property. Later additions were added in stone and in salvaged lumber as space was needed and materials could be purchased.

When my grandfather had an especially large project, he would call on all the neighbors...to raise a ridge pole or lay cedar shakes or to build a stone addition for the new summer kitchen, just as the neighbors would call on him when there was work to be done at their places. Community was built along with homes and great friendships were forged that have endured a lifetime.

This last spring, my partner and I moved into a tri-plex. We have been here over a year and can only recognize 2 of the other tenants here and do not know any of our neighbors. The apartment is expensive and eats up about 1/3 of our income to offer 2 bedrooms, 1 tiny bath and a tiny kitchen, all built and finished to the standards of 1970's slum housing. We are not alone. Here in Seattle, housing is always at a premium. I would love to fix the place up but my lease says otherwise.

Homes do not exist for renters, instead we live in drywalled shoeboxes, but the cost of buying a house is impossible to manage. I would love to follow in my grandfather's footsteps and buy a lot and build a house but I suspect that building a log cabin in Seward park would probably get me a visit from the planning department and maybe even the police. The Seattle building department, like most other building departments, have set rules concerning building materials and methods that can be used to build a house.

To quote: In order to obtain a permit for new construction, additions and remodels, customers must provide
King County with the following:
A. Affidavit for Application Form;
B. Property Tax Account Number;
C. Legal Description of Property (three copies);
D. Proof of Legal Lot;
E. Site Plan (or Plot Plan) (on DDES template, to an engineer's scale, with no brokenlines. See text; three copies.);
F. Working Drawings (See text for requirements; two copies.);
G. Information on Heating Systems, Fireplaces and Stoves;
H. Critical Area Designation Approval (If installing new septic or well system)
I. Certificate of Sewer Availability and Related Documents;
Obtaining A Residential Building Permit
J. Certificate of Water Availability and Related Documents;
K. Valuation for Special Site Items;
L. Fees for Reviews Completed Before Permit Approval;
M. Contractor’s Registration Number OR Affidavit Regarding Contractor Registration; and
N. Miscellaneous.

WHEW!!

No wonder we do not build our own homes anymore. Just the paperwork is worth paying someone $400,000 to do it for us...right?

In reality most of the "rules" are in place not to protect a perspective owner/build but rather to protect home buyers from shady contractors. The "rules" list has been expanded every time a person has been injured in their home, or when quality complaints start coming in. The rules are in place to protect home buyers from bad workmanship, cheap materials, and corner cutting but what these "rules" have really done is isolate the home owner from the process of building the home. Most homeowners can barely clean out their gutters, let alone replace a window or add a room. Nearly all the maintenance and repair of the modern home must be handed over to "professionals" because the homeowner has no idea what may be inside the walls or in the eves of their own home.

America has mostly given in to the pressure by buying stick made homes, built by professionals, and by calling a contractor every time something leaks, rattles or breaks. The result of this is that people no longer feel any connection to their homes. Homes have become something to trade up or flip. And, ironically, home construction is just as bad as it ever was. Cheap spec homes are put on the market everyday. They are built by day laborers, using cheap materials. Then everything is drywalled and painted "contractor-white-flat-latex", and the future buyer thinks they are getting a great house. Wrong! They are getting a house that will not last as long as their mortgage and in most cases they do not care because they are going to sell it in 5 or 10 years anyhow.

Personally, I am not buying it. I miss the days of building a home from what ever materials were available whether it be a soddy or adobe or straw bales or stone. Building a home built connection to the world and community we live in and respect for the nature of our planet. We are much poorer beings for having lost this.

More information on Handmade Homes:


Strawbale Construction:
http://www.strawbale.com/

Thatch:
http://www.roofthatch.com/

Building with Cob:
http://www.cobcottage.com/

Green Homes:
http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/

Papercrete Houses
http://www.northcoast.com/~tms/papercrete.html