What I’m Growing this Winter

Winter in our Mediterranean climate is when we grow cool season vegetables. It’s my favorite time of year here. The hills turn green, the smog blows away and we have that phenomenon called “rain” (hopefully). As usual, I’m planting seeds from an Italian seed company, Franchi. Here’s what I’m growing: Arugula “Coltivata Sel. Ortolani” One can never have enough arugula. It’s my favorite vege...

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The Africanized Bee Myth

...y disease resistance. And I can’t help but think there’s a subconscious racism here of the sort that you find at the extreme end of the anti-invasive species movement (see Gert Gröning and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn for more on that subject). Africanized colonies have been living for years in walls, trees and utility boxes of the warmer parts of North America without any human intervention. They have, through the process of natural sele...

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Live Like a Stoic for a Week

Image: Rugu. A group of British academics are asking an important question: “Can the ancient philosophy of Stoicism help us to lead better and happier lives?” This week they’ll be providing everything from a Stoicism Handbook to recorded meditations to help wake your inner Seneca. They are also asking for people to participate in a week-long experiment to see what kind of effect Stoic philosophy can have on day to day living. C...

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Self-Righteousness Fail: We Bought a Car

usehold overnight. A combination of environmental guilt and distaste for car shopping led us to a six month car free living experiment in Los Angeles. That period ended in late September when we purchased a car from a friend. It’s well past time we came clean and discussed the ups and downs of car-free living, as well as the reasons that led us to start burning dinosaur juice once again. Only a nobody walks in LA First let me dispel the...

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Have We Reached Peak Kale? Franchi’s Cavolo Laciniato “Galega De Folhas Lisas”

ile longer. I propose a Franchi kale “Galega De Folhas Lisas” as the new big thing. Translated, the variety name is something like “Galacian smooth leaf.” To add to the confusion I get the feeling that Italians don’t distinguish between kale and collards—what we call collards they consider just a smooth leafed and lighter colored version of kale. This makes sense as they are both just primitive forms of cabbage...

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Extreme Low-Tech Communication

This has to be the ultimate achievement in low-powered long-distance communication. Ham radio operator Michael Rainey, AA1TJ, transmitted a message over a distance of over 1,000 miles by yelling Morse code with his own voice into this primitive home-made transmitter, nicknamed “El Silbo.” No power was used other than that generated by his own voice vibrating the microphone (which was a re-purposed speaker). If you want to build your...

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My New Drug Dealer Phone

I’m not a fan of cell phones. I don’t like being interrupted when I’m away from home. But good luck finding a pay phone. For that reason cell phones have become somewhat of a necessity in modern life. A few years ago a reader suggested picking up a prepaid phone. We had one for a long time and it worked great, as long as you don’t use it that much. We lost it and I  had to replace it recently. For $20 I picked up the Tra...

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Film Industry Comprimises Safety of Cyclists

advocates who attended the City Council meeting. Before the bike lane issue came up on the agenda, we all had to endure a two hour self-congratulatory tribute to an outgoing, term-limited councilman. When the bike lane agenda item finally came up, councilman Huizar announced that the Council and film industry had reached a “compromise” and that there would be no public comment. So much for democracy. The “compromise” consi...

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How do you care for cast iron?

They really knew how to rock cast iron in those days. A couple of months ago I found an 8″ cast iron skillet on the sidewalk. It was a newer model pan, already seasoned, hardly used. One of my neighbors had apparently decided they didn’t like it, or need it. I snatched that puppy up. Not that I need more cast iron–I have three skillets in varying sizes, and no room for another. But to me, cast iron is solid gold. So I gave it t...

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The Upside Down Fire

lt in the opposite direction: heavy stuff on the bottom, lighter stuff on top, tinder on the very top. Basically, the finished product looks like a bird’s nest sitting on a log cabin. This style of fire is great because it takes care of itself–build it, light it, and get on with your other chores. It lasts a long time too, as it makes very efficient use of the wood. I’ve done this many times, and it works like a charm. The video...

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