Help Juneau . . . Not That They Asked

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 9:21 pm

Juneau Alaska has an interesting community planning / environmental disaster problem.  They have a section of town that they know is vulnerable to avalanches. This section is built-up and has had some damage before. (17 houses in 1962). The city isn’t willing to buy everyone out, a cheaper alternative than building snow barriers that may be counter-productive anyway.

In 2004, Alaska was apparently in a state of denial. They had the highest per capita avalanche death rate in the country, failed to implement state mandates for an education and forecasting program, and failed to get a cut of Federal funding for avalanche programs. Volunteers filled the gap.

Volunteers put together a shoestring program to educate and warn of avalanche dangers. In 2006 they were able to get funding to expand the forecasting capability. They are still short of their goal of getting a government-funded, voluntary buyout of at-risk areas but they’re taking actions that have cut fatalities 60% in other areas where they have been tried.
Any suggestions for them? (Put your comments here. I’ll write them up and forward them to www.avalanche.org.)

My own suggestion involved selling local “tourist” businesses advertising space on their site. – A potentially significant source of revenue in a 2006 budget of $200,000.


Gardening is the Answer . . .

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 8:40 pm

What is the single most effective thing you can do to help your kids learn to respond to a global crisis? Teach them to grow a vegetable garden.

Name that Crisis

  • Problems with the economy are causing food bank shortages? Teach your child to grow food to donate to the needy.
  • Weather patterns cause a crop to fail? Americans won’t starve but the replacement food they buy will come from somewhere and the original customers might have difficulties. Your own food supply can help.
  • Avian Flu? Having fresh vegetables can cut down on trips to the grocery store.
  • Storms cause flooding that disrupts food transportation? Again, a source of food in the backyard can be a nice safety cushion.

Gardening can make a significant difference – during WWII victory gardens supplied 40% of the US food requirements during the summer months, freeing up fuel to use in the war effort.

Guiding a toddler to plant carrot seeds – even if they all end up rather closer than you might plant them, can give a child a huge sense of accomplishment as they thin the growing plants and see the progress of the carrots. Older children can make a significant contributionto the family table.

My then three-year-old son never complained about the long hours I would work in front of the computer – he just would come in and invite me to go out and dig with him – not in the sand box – in the garden. He almost always succeeded.

Now is the time to sit with your youngster and plan just how you might maximize the produce from a small plot – broccoli planted soon, lettuce, amongst the tomato plants, and finally, fall squash. (That’s not necessarily an optimum plan – just the things I like and have time for.) Take a soil sample with your child and discuss the science behind pH, then start to adjust if necessary.

If best-comes-to-best and the disaster never occurs? Maybe your child will just acquire a lifetime hobby. This is bad?


NetFlicks Prize Contest – One Million Dollars Just Waiting

Posted in Just A Thought, Uncategorized at 11:48 am

My husband gets in moods where he would like to see me engaged in more gainful employment. Chauffeuring kids, answering client’s questions, chauffeuring kids, managing the house, chauffeuring kids, writing a blog do not count when he thinks about how fast we could pay off the mortgage if I would just take a consulting gig. This morning he came up with a plan.

I should win the one million dollar Netflix contest to develop a better way for Netflix to recommend movies. No problem. I look at the leader board & see that Netflix grossly underestimated the time it will take to get a solution 10% better than theirs. (Don’t they know that watching movies rots their brain?) Most of the leading contestants with websites are grad students looking for jobs, companies that already had a solution for their problem and decided for $1,000,000 they’d adapt it to Netflick’s problem, academics, and one altruist pushing Amnesty International. Double no problem. (I love my husband’s opinion of my abilities.)

I register, start downloading the large database and whip up an algorithm. (How hard is it to model talking with your friends over coffee, finding out who likes the same movies you do & what they think of movies you haven’t seen?) So my husband reviews my algorithm and immediately starts telling me I need to include a weighting factor for those viewers who don’t have the same ratings I do. Does he think I listen to my friends who liked Borat?

First issue. The database doesn’t have data to pick out who my friends are. OK. I’ll take a broader view of who my friends are. (Actually my friends are pretty diverse so I’d already done that, but seems awfully presumptuous of Netflicks to assume that I’d think the same as everyone else.)

Moving on, it’s not even in the form I want to check out if I like my friend’s taste. OK, I can fix that. Since I’m just a girl, my husband elbows me aside and starts loading the data I need into a database with the format I need. A quick speed check indicates it will take just under 2 weeks. I wonder if I still have the numbers of those nice boys with access to Crays that I dated after college?


Where’s the Climate Change Game?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 10:41 am

You may have noticed that the structure of the ‘game’ is not completely spelled out.  Like many strategic planning games, I envisioned discussions of possible things people might implement in response to the the game scenario. Cost/benefit & impementation times would lead to reasonable proposals for communities to consider. Very dry.

The BBC has come up with a snazzy game for those anxious to be the President of the Europeon Union and address global warming. (forget being a lowly community planner). Of course, I’ve already given my opinion on the inherent uselessnes of politicians in dealing with scary problems (as opposed to just difficult problems).

 Thanks to  Climate Change Elucidated and Resilance Science for pointing me at the game.


Who Knew the UK Drank So Much Tea? Maybe Their Streets Are Dark?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 4:06 pm

I generally keep away from the causes of global warming and whether & which mitigating factors should be pursued because:

1) What if the skeptics are right & it really issun spots, 6 billion people breathing out, too many cows not fed NO-GAS, aliens, or whatever making it hot – we still may end up with a rather unpleasent problem on our hands.

2) Many sites already address things that may mitigate one of the few things we can control – CO2 emissions.

3) I’m more interested in communities taking local actions to plan for problems on the long-range horizon.

Given that, I couldn’t resist this mitigation technique from tearfund.org:

Only boil the water that you need for your cup of tea. If everyone boiled just the water they needed, the energy saved could power over three-quarters of the UK’s streetlights.


Zone Roof Gardens to Plan For Abrupt Climate Change (the game)

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 5:09 pm

If you knew global warming would bring an abrupt climate change, roof gardens might be close to a first response. (See premise for the game.) Better yet, they offer immediate benefits.

Roof gardens are of two types. There are shallow gardens that use between 1 to 4 inches of dirt and are relatively low maintenance called extensive roof gardens. There are also intensive roof gardens that are often landscaped retreats that have at least 8 inches of soil, irrigation systems and can require significant roof reinforcement. Both offer immediate benefits of extended roof life, energy conservation, runoff control, air pollution mitigation, and ambient air temperature reduction in urban areas.

If you were only concerned with peak storm runoffs, global warming or energy conservation you might start zoning to encourage moving towards all roofs having extensive roof gardens. If you know you need to be able to maximize food production, you might start tax breaks for intensive garden roofs. Growing your food on your roof not only greatly increases the fertile area that may be available to some communities, it may provide added security for crops in the scenario postulated by the community planners game.

This is long-range strategy that could take 40 – 50 years to become fully functional. Even with great tax incentives (even more hypothetical than abrupt climate change) roofs will primarily be replaced as they wear out or as new homes are built. If new homes are built now with extensive roofs, it is expected that it will be 40 years before they require a new roof.


Another Dee Story – Children Terrorizing the Maid

Posted in Dee Stories, Family Legends, Hiring A Maid at 11:33 am

Dee, a respectable matron whose words flow with the gentle music of the south, gave me another story of how she terrorized Ida, her family’s maid, and with the exception of her family, the most loved person in Dee’s childhood.

The day started innocently enough. Dee and a young man from next door were playing together. Ida fixed the two of them nice sliced bananas & mayo on soft white bread sandwiches for lunch. I am assured that this was a Southern favorite and really quite good. (I thought deep fried bread was good when I was young so who am I to make comments?)

After lunch, Ida left the butcher knife used to slice the bananas on the table to dry while Dee and her friend went out to run around the yard. Dee was soon hit with inspiration. She led her young friend into the house where she directed him to smear catsup on her arm and the knife. She then started screaming for Ida that there had been an accident.

Ida came running in, turned white (not her normal color), and raced for the phone. Ida and the operator did not enjoy a state of mutual respect (completely Dee’s fault) but the operator knew her job and connected Ida to Dr. Adams. Ida sputtered out the situation and the Doctor arrived in moments.

Dee and her friend were not idle. As fast as they could, they washed Dee’s arm and the knife and ran out to the swing. When Dr. Adams arrived they assured him that they didn’t know what Ida was talking about – Perhaps she had been napping and had had a nightmare?

When Dee’s father came home he didn’t know quite what to make of the story since he had Ida threatening to leave on one hand and a pair of children saying she had a nightmare on the other. Dee does wonder if her father was part of the growing crowd that thought poor, tee-totaling Ida was tippling on the job.

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.


Carnival of Family Life – future host

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:09 pm

I’ll be hosting the April 16 Carnival of Family Life. I’ll be happy, I’m sure, with all submissions that meet the carnival criteria, but I’ll give special prominance to submissions where your family worked to make your community better. Thanks.


A Welcoming Bathroom

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 9:52 am

Most bathrooms can be improved with three simple steps.

  1. Have a guest basket.

     Having a maid tends to make you reduce the clutter that is out and about. (Even if you’re the maid.) Reversing this and putting everything a visitor might want in a bathroom in a basket greatly increases your visitor’s enjoyment of their visit. A broken nail or dry eyes may not rise to the level of needing to speak to the hostess at a dinner party, but if your guest can take care of the problem promptly, they will be more comfortable.

    My mushroom-basket contains:

    •  spray deodorant (I think it is a teenage need, but someone sure uses it),
    • anti-cling spray,
    • dry eye drops (individual packets are available at the super stores),
    • small clear pouch with nail clipper and tweezers,
    • small sewing kit – needles thread & safety pins (although my skills make a stapler more appropriate),
    • toilet paper roll,
    • additional hand towels,
    • hand lotion
    • small baby powder
    • small mouthwash (probably for teenagers, my husband kisses me as soon as he finishes the garlic bread)
    • sunscreen,
    • bug spray,
    • a zippered pouch with sanitary supplies,
    • tissues and
    • hair spray (my guests use it for ink stains, not hair, as far as I know)
    • It’s technically not in the basket, but I also put a box of wipes on the floor by the toilet to clean anything that might not be up to my guests standards (What I really hope is that the males in my family use it – see Stephanie’s comment on the last post).

    Send Eco-elegant flowers

  2. Empty the medicine cabinet
  3. There are absolutely appalling statistics* on the number of people who go sight-seeing through other people’s medicine cabinets and even worse stories about people pilfering prescription medicines from their neighbor’s homes. I moved all my aspirins, etc. to a high shelf in the kitchen. A locked first aid kit attached to a kitchen closet wall might have been better. (I’m fortunate that, unless you’re a dog, my medicine cabinet is pretty sparse.)

    *Everyone cites a 40% at parties snoop statistic but there doesn’t seem to be any real research available on this.

  4. Wash your toothbrushes, cups, etc in the dishwasher on sanitiary cycle
  5. I normally haul everyone’s toothbrushes, cups, and other oral hygene stuff down to the dishwasher once a week. If anyone has a cold, I do it once/day. This may have no discernable impact in a house of adults but I’m reasonably certain that if I put my son’s toothbrush under a microscope before & after there would be a discernable difference.


A Boy and the Shower

Posted in Family Legends at 11:16 am

I’ve finally come to accept that my 10-year old son must be brain damaged. There were signs – he didn’t breathe on his own for the first week of his life, my darling friend Linda, a speech pathologist, gently pointed out at 18 months the fact that I understood his extremely complex grunt and gesture communication system did not mean that he was speaking normally, he spent half his life at school in remedial reading.

I was in denial. I clung to his 9o percentile plus scores on ERBs (standardized tests – well, except for spelling but what is spell-check for anyway?), his evaluations that said he was functioning at a 5th grade level in math in 1st grade, his obvious social presence.

This morning I walked into the bathroom he had just left. Looking at the pool of water on the floor I called to him that “that it is normally considered a good idea to keep the shower curtain in the bathtub.”

BeNetSafe - Helping keep children safe online He is a respectful boy. He paused for a moment’s thought (maybe it was a pause to finish his move on a computer game he shouldn’t have been on this morning, but I hope he was thinking about what I said.) “Why?” he asked.

Why???? I did not go berserk. I merely responded, “so that the water coming down the curtain goes in the tub and not on the floor.” (Did he not notice he needed a boat to get out of the bathroom?)

“Oh, . . . Sorry” was his reply.

Would it be a disaster if I blamed it on the male gene?