Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For the Fall Calendar: Fall Fling - A Gardening Festival

Polk County mapImage via Wikipedia

Not sure if this is free or comes with a fee, but there's a nice-looking event coming up on September 11, 2010, at Dallas High School in Polk County, where the Polk County Master Gardeners have their 8th Annual "Fall Fling," with speakers James (Soil Man) Cassidy, Roger Gossler of Gossler Family Farms, and Salem's own Barb (Chicken Lady) Palermo speaking on "The Chicken Revolution."

There's no same-day registration, and only limited enrollment. The signups close on August 27. Call the Polk County Master Gardeners to register at 503.623.8395.

Note the cute, creative, and informative comic book on making "lasagna beds" (pdf) without tilling, which disrupts the soil life.
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Another petition worth a look

High Speed Rail proposalImage by swanksalot via Flickr

Here at LOVESalem HQ we have lots of reservations about "high speed rail" -- as in, let's prove that we can re-create and maintain the rail system we had in 1910 before we spend too much money and time on a wholly new system. But it seems that the price of getting any attention onto long-distance rail at all is being willing to accept a focus on the "high speed" part -- so there you go, here's a petition to let policymakers know you want alternatives for travel.

The awful oil spill in the Gulf reminded me again why we need to end our addiction to oil.

In fact, we have an option that can reduce our oil dependence, reduce traffic and congestion, create jobs and spur economic growth, by modernizing Oregon's transportation system with fast trains and buses, we won't depend on gas-guzzling cars and trucks to get around.

Imagine riding a high-speed passenger train that gets you from Eugene to Portland to Seattle quicker than driving, is 95% on-time and runs all day, with stops in Salem, Albany/Corvallis and other cities.

Pipe dream? Nope. President Obama has made high-speed rail a priority. Oregon and Washington got $560 million last year to jump-start this exact plan. We now have a shot at getting millions more in the coming years -- but only if Oregonians speak up and show lawmakers that we want high-speed rail.

Please sign our petition of support for a modern Oregon transportation system -- including fast trains.

OSPIRG is launching a long-term campaign to modernize Oregon's transportation system. We need a network of fast trains and buses that connect our state and neighborhoods together. We need more freight options for Oregon's farmers and businesses. And we need to prioritize fixing our current bridges and roads before building new ones, so we invest our tax dollars efficiently.

This is an exciting project, and it should yield great results for Oregon. Please show your support for signing our petition for a modern transportation system for Oregon. And look for more ways you can help soon.


Local Harvest deserves all the attention it gets and lots more

Blueberries at Farmer's MarketImage via Wikipedia

What a nice idea.
. . . The group is affiliated with Friends of Salem Saturday Market. Its goal is to alleviate hunger.

The group is seeking volunteers to help gather unused fruit from Salem backyards to share with needy families.

To volunteer, contact Katherine at kdaniels@salemharvest.org.

Individuals who would like to have unused fruits collected from trees, vines or berry bushes, can register to do that using the group's online form, or by contacting Dick at dyates@salemharvest.org.

To learn more, go to www.salemharvest.org.
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Is Salem likely to see many electric cars?

Tesla Roadster Engineering Prototype at Yahoo!.Like the jewel-encrusted bras that you sometimes see discussed in the press, with a picture of a supermodel showing off the goods, the Tesla is all about keeping the masses fixated on the unattainable to distract them from reconsidering existing arrangements. You are as likely to own a Tesla or equivalent as you are to own one of those bras. Image via Wikipedia

A net-friend asks why, with all the hype about electric cars and wondrous new batteries, Salem would want to invest in transit systems limited by rails or electric overhead power supply lines. Here's part of the answer.

If you didn't go read that fascinating article (really), then here's my cut at summarizing it to reply:
As an engineer, I am quite skeptical of the hype around the modern variants of electric cars, which are unlikely ever to be affordable for the masses, or an efficient solution to moving many people. Had we stayed electric in the first place and never become accustomed to driving hundreds of miles at 75+ mph, we might have had a shot at a saner transport system, but we didn't. Absent a price on carbon that puts all driving out of reach for most people (and where does the will to do that come from in a society that insists on being ferried in a vehicle for all trips more than a quarter mile), we're never going to be able to afford mass adoption of electric cars the way we did with gas powered ones.

You might find this excellent writeup about the history of auto battery technology advances interesting:

It ends thus:
We cannot have it all

Of course, there are many more possibilities than the two scenario's outlined here. It would not kill us to drive at speeds of 20 mph, on the contrary, but there is so much potential in downsizing the automobile that we don't have to go all the way back to the early 1900s to get a decent range.

We could tune them up a bit so that they could get 60 km/h or 40 mph (only sligthly faster than the 1911 Babcock Electric Roadster pictured on the right) and accelerate just fast enough to leave a crime scene or flee from a mad elephant.

At 60 km/h or 40 mph a trip of 600 kilometres or 400 miles would take 10 hours, instead of 5 hours at a common motorway speed. This does not sound like the end of the world. It's definitely a whole lot faster than going by foot (120 hours) or by bike (30 hours). We could also equip the Trev with a somewhat larger battery so that it gets a better mileage at the expense of a somewhat lower speed. Or, yet another possibility: keep the Trev like it is but limit its speed to that of the Fritchle.

If we want more speed, we have to sacrifice range. If we want more range, we have to sacrifice speed. If we want to keep the (energy) costs of the charging infrastructure within reasonable limits, we have to sacrifice speed or size. The lesson to be learned here, is that we cannot have it all: range, speed and size. And yet, that's what we are trying to do.
And that is the a basic truth --- that we cannot have it all. With the already-begun Great Contraction at work, we're not going to see mass adoptions of electric cars, and we're going to see a lot fewer people in gasoline-powered cars on the roads.

Of course, if we wait too long to restore a functioning mass transport system it will be too late -- we will have neither. The time for major infrastructure projects is drawing to a close for a long time, possibly forever. An energy-tight society is not a wealthy one; add the stresses and costs imposed by climate disruption and you see that we are unlikely to be able to afford private autos for many folks.

We can afford mass transit though, if we hurry.
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Already legal in Salem

As we slowly slog towards a rational accommodation for urban hens, it's worth remembering that, in Salem, pot bellied pigs are already specifically allowed -- with no limits on the numbers either. And they can be pretty substantial in size -- here's a Salem Craigslist ad tonight:
Friendly male pot belly piglet, enjoys the company of other animals and good with children. Currently 8 weeks old. Pictured with his mother who is 35lbs, his father is 50lbs, mainly black. Thanks.
The weird bias against hens goes back to the urge to impose a class-based restriction on what can be a pet in neighborhoods --- the bias says that an animal has to be useless, that it have no practical value, to help maintain the fiction that we're all lords of our little estates and that we don't need to work or grow our own food or anything like that ... that's for "those people" out in the sticks, not for us high-class "city people." Absurd as that sounds, that's pretty much the basis for zoning out urban hens when cows and full-size stock animals were zoned out of Salem in the 70's. What's especially noteworthy is how smoothly the zone code was changed to allow a pet for the rich folks who like pot-belly pigs when they became all trendy.