Will 3D Printing Save Us From Bad Garden Sculpture?

In the annals of bad taste there’s nothing quite like contemporary garden sculpture. We’ve ranted about this before. Leaf through the infamous and (mercifully) soon to be extinct Skymall catalog and you’ll find statuary, like the example above, that would make Saddam Hussein blush in his grave.

Even the professional landscape community seems to have a sculptural kitsch problem. Our public spaces are plagued with bronze, smiling, hyper-realistic statuary. For me these things evoke a visceral uncanny valley horror response.

Perhaps 3D printing is the answer. In 2012 artist Oliver Laric approached a museum in the UK and proposed scanning objects from their collection and making the files available for free. You can see those scans, which include Dante, Roman and medieval objects and a few 19th century British mayors here. You can also see what some folks have been doing with those scans.

While the past is no refuge from kitsch, I’ll take the spinning Dante over bronze Children of the Damned any day.

An indispensible urban tool: the titanium spork

titanium spork

One of my best allies in my effort to cut down on my use of disposables is a titanium spork. It’s strong, pleasant to use, and weighs virtually nothing. I bought it many years ago in preparation for a long hiking trip, but it soon proved its utility in the urban environment. It’s always in my bag, a permanent part of my “everyday carry”, and I use when I’m eating food from home as well as in situations where I’d otherwise be forced to use plastic flatware.

I love its simplicity and utility. The prongs of the spork are substantial enough to work as a fork, but aren’t hard on the mouth when it’s used as a spoon. I have another so-called spork, not a true spork, if you ask me, but a Frankenstein’s monster with a spoon on one end and a fork on the other. Do not be tempted by the promise of having a full fork and spoon in one utensil–it just doesn’t work. When one end is in your mouth, the utensil on the opposite end threatens your nose and eyes, not so much literally, but psychologically. That’s disturbing, so it remains with the camping gear. (KonMari will want me to set it free soon.)

My true spork, the REI Ti Ware spork, is a perfect blend of form and function. While I bought this spork many years ago, REI is still selling a version of it which looks identical, except for having a more prominent logo.  REI no longer carries this particular spork, though it carries other titanium sporks. There’s also a very similar looking titanium spork over at Amazon, produced by Toaks.

Some of you may wonder whether I need a knife, and the answer is I don’t need one in most situations. I usually carry a pocket knife, and I can bring that out if I need to slice something like bread or cheese, but 95% of the time the spork alone is sufficient. Also, it’s sturdy and thin edged, so the side of the spoon can cut through softer foods.

I’ve heard that back in the day people did not expect to be provided with eating utensils in public establishments, so travelers carried their utensils with them. Today this might seem crazy, but to me, if anything is crazy it’s the idea that we have the God-given right to be provided with a set of plastic flatware which we will use once and only once, for the approximately ten minutes it takes us to down a combo platter, and then consign that set of plastic utensils to an immortal afterlife in a landfill. Meanwhile, I imagine that I’ll request that my spork be buried with me, along with the rest of my grave goods.

 Addendum: I just found a cool titanium spork, the Apocalyspork, which is more expensive than mine, but is handcrafted in the US out of aerospace scrap. In addition, the handle is tricked up with a bottle opener, a hex key and who knows what else.

Local Politician Tom LaBonge Wants LA Covered in Astroturf and the City to Pay For It

Astroturf and Tom LaBonge

Our local utility is offering residents a sizable rebate to remove lawns and replace them with less water intensive plantings and mulch. This makes long term sense in what appears to be a permanent, climate change related drought here in California.

Unfortunately, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge is pushing for the inclusion of artificial turf in that rebate program. He, apparently, has a vision of Los Angeles, as one big tawdry miniature golf course. Here’s his motion annotated with my opinions:

As drought conscious residents of the City of Los Angeles look for ways to reduce their water consumption, business is booming for the synthetic turf industry. [And that’s a reason to give them more money?] A recent study revealed that the annual amount of water needed to maintain the average lawn each year is about 34,000 gallons or about 670 bathtubs full of water.

The quality and appearance of synthetic turf has gained popularity, and especially with the drought, turf has become more accepted. [By whom? It’s still plastic. And you need to water it in the summer to make it cool enough to walk on and to wash out pet urine. It provides no benefit for wildlife.] Residential turf is growing exponentially in Southern California, but home installation still accounts for less than 13% of the total turf installations. [Again, is this a reason to subsidize it?]

With rising water rates and with the current lawn removal rebate programs that are offered to residents of the City of Los Angeles, there is a need to look at options such as artificial turf as an alternative for drought friendly landscaping.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the Department of Water and Power be requested to report back with a study on the potential benefits of implementing artificial grass for home installations and how it can make an impact in the current drought conditions. [I’m certain that local water officials already studied the option and, wisely, concluded that they did not want to subside artificial turf. Why waste staff time?]

Let me predict the results, should Tom’s AstroTurf vision become law. In a few years we’ll see acres of ripped, smog and dog feces stained plastic turf that will eventually end up in our overflowing landfills. The present rebate program is an opportunity to create landscapes that support birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife at the same time as they reduce water consumption.  Tom’s future is just a plastic version of the same old lawn paradigm that just doesn’t make sense in our climate.

Thanks to Travis Longcore for the tip on this.

2015 Resolutions

It’s time for the annual confessional: did we stick to our resolutions from last year?

And in this same post we’ll state our 2015 goals for the record, so we can take this same walk of shame next year.

(And is it just me or does 2015 not seem like a very futuristic date? Where is my jet pack?)

Erik’s 2014 resolutions:

1) Finish hardscaping the backyard, grow more vegetables.

Sort of a fail here. Some work was done but there’s more to do. In the last hours of 2014 I did manage to finish a cool hexagonal deck by the chicken coop.

2) Perfect a 100% whole grain sourdough bread

Success! I can make a reliably good whole grain boule. Now I’ve got to write up the recipe!

3) Take a class —which involves a a trip

Nope, unless going to the Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa counts.

4)Good health

Success! Paying for a few sessions with my Y’s rehab specialist have paid off.

Kelly’s 2014 resolutions:

1) Make shoes in 2014

I did this!

2) Make or buy a new bed.

I did not do this. It remains a conundrum. And in the meanwhile, the lumps in our old mattress have shifted or something so it’s not as uncomfortable as it was when I made the resolution. In other words, there’s no urgency behind this one right now, but it will come up again. (For reference, see this post from 2013)

3) Learn to surf.

I’ve been making a little progress. I’m not a surfer yet by any means, but I’m getting good at paddling and spinning the board, but need to work on speed and timing. I  need to spend more concentrated time in the water this coming year.

So, what is my score? About 60%?

Next up: resolutions for 2015

A joint project for Erik and Kelly:

Refurbishing the kitchen: new paint, new floor, cleaning everything up. We’ve been putting this off, and it needs to be done this year. Preferably in the first quarter of the year.

Erik’s 2015 resolutions

  1. Write a whole grain ebook. Now that I can make a decent whole grain loaf it’s time to see if I can teach it.
  2. Take an electronics class. I’ve built circuits in the past but I can’t say that I fully understand how they work. I’ve also fooled around with an Arduino, but I need to deepen my knowledge.
  3. Take a woodworking class. I’ve got some basic skills, but it’s well past time to get better at carpentry.
  4. End internet addictions. No more procrastination by idly checking Facebook, Twitter etc.
  5. Athletic challenge. I’d like to go to the national fencing tournament in San Jose this year. But I need something else. Maybe a long run or backpacking trip.

Kelly’s 2015 resolutions

  1. Produce the uniform. The uniform idea came up during 2014, and I’ve been learning how to sew, and now have a machine, so there’s no excuse not to be modeling my uniform for all you folks sometime this year.
  2. Design and produce a ceramic oil lamp
  3. Take up archery again. This is not a very specific goal, but I’d be happy if I got my equipment in order and went out stump shooting a few times before the weather gets hot.
  4. I’m committing to daily exercise, and exercising more than once a day–breaking up my exercise into shorter intervals so I don’t have those sedentary days where I sit on my rear all day long.
  5. I’m also committing to limiting my internet access to two daily sessions. No more checking email throughout the day, no more going on Facebook “for just 5 minutes.”
  6. And finally, I commit to meditating quietly for a few minutes the first thing every morning.