June 17, 2008

Treasure is Where We Find It?!

You know the saying:

One man's trash is another mans treasure... well, that goes for women too... probably for some animals as well... It's a matter of taste and style and upbringing and interests. Always is, no matter what you're talking about. 

I personally love trash AND treasure. I like treasure from trash and I like some trashy treasures. I was a dumpster diver when I was a kid. That was some good treasure, I'll tell you what! 

We lived behind the local shopping center so we could go diving for everything from still good food to toys! Yes, there was a toy store that threw stuff out! Broken display stuff mostly but, there were the occasional broken but still fun toys too. Plus, the other side of the street had a huge vacant, hilly lot that provided a place to build a hidden fort - where we could stash some of our dumpster goods if only have a place to play with them so our parents wouldn't know we'd been dumpster diving - and a lot of native plants and animals to wonder at and catch. Something which made us well known in the pet store as well. Though, I kinda feel bad about it now, we used to catch blue bellies (lizards) and sell em to the pet store for a quarter... which we'd inevitably give them back for the privilege of watching them feed the MataMata turtle - who was supposedly 150 years old! 

Ah, good times. 

This was also a time when my Cracker Jacks were giving up the occasional cool metal toy - like working compasses - and my mother and grandmother were giving me their unwanted extra and broken costume jewelry. Which got even better as I was learning things like how to string jewelry from parental friends during our occasional weekend days at the flea market. Now that was a lesson in finding treasure wherever you looked if there ever was one. It may have even been my inspiration for some of the first jewelry I ever made - from Cracker Jack and gumball machine toys. Mostly earrings, but the occasional necklace too. Still have some of those somewhere. In a box in the garage no doubt. 

Since my mom was also a single one (hi mom!), I was  getting dragged to the field portions of her geology classes around that time too; due to lack of babysitters, and possibly the unending sound of "please take us". That was GREAT! We had our own hammers and got to search for fossils in the shale and sandstone along the creek just like all the adults. Found a geode or two and a fossil here and there. Nothing like banging on rocks to find treasure! Later, every time I went up to visit my mom and sis and aunt and cousins (hi everybody!), I got to wander around Park City finding crystals. Which I eventually learned to wire wrap and started making necklaces and earrings from. 

I still walk around looking at the ground or sifting through the edge of streams and rivers; picking up rocks that speak to me everywhere I go - and sometimes putting them into my jewelry - however, I'm ready to move into a new phase along those lines. So, I'm planning to travel around to all the dig your own gemstone places in the US (everything from diamonds to opals and all the precious stones inbetween!) and incorporate the raw, uncut, might polish them a little first, precious gems I find into some truly unique stuff. I'm aiming to start next Spring. 

I know it won't be everyone's idea of treasure (even though, technically, it will actually be considered precious and therefore: actual treasure) but the raw and found have always captivated me as much as, if not more so, than the finely cut and polished purchases I've made, so I want to reflect that more in my jewelry. 

Now, all I have to do is make my life more conducive to that particular goal.  All help and suggestions welcome! 

June 10, 2008

A Blog By Any Other Name

Everyone is blogging. 


Even Phil; who is a man of well chosen words. That means he's pretty quiet, for the most part. Though, when he has something to say, he has a lot of it to say. I think he stores it up. Usually he communicates through his music, art or photography. The last of which is the basis for his new blog, the name for which came to him before the content. Well, actually, when he went to start his blog, there were already two that had differently spelled versions of the same name Phil was going to use, so he settled on this:

Which is a play on his more well known online moniker: The Polywog
(and contrary to the copyright info at the bottom of the polywog site, I actually took both of the pics of Phil that he uses for each of the two sections on his website. I should probably make him credit me, noh?)

Not a lot of verbiage on this new outlet. Not a lot on his website either. All his descriptions, stories and musings are short and to the point but, I think, pretty interesting. Right now, there's just a small selection of his amazing nature photography (with a lot more to come) and a story of how one set of those photos came to be. 

I'll probably be getting roped in to check for mistakes and even edit those few words from time to time and even though it probably wont be updated on a regular basis, when he does update, he changes and adds a lot. So, if you like what you see, check back regularly - just in case. 

Now, if I can just get him to add his magic touch to the design for my blog... 

June 2, 2008

No Fuel From Food!!!

A couple years ago, when I heard about the new fuel they were making from corn, I was happily surprised that they finally figured out how to and started making fuel from the wasted corn stalks. Which is what any normal person would have assumed right? Who in their right mind would make ethanol fuel from the actual corn? Which is, as I read further and found out, is exactly what they're doing. Plus biodiesel production from Soybeans (now one of the leading illegally denuding farming culprits in the Amazon rain forests) and Palm Oil (plantations of which are now destroying the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo) is becoming such a huge industry that it's affecting people in other parts of the world too. With the millions of extra acres needed to grow food plants for fuel, that also means billions of fewer trees to absorb the problem they're being cut down to solve. Which also leads to other problems, as most of us know, such as lower biodiversity and water issues.

But, with the new flex fuel cars, other straight alcohol burning cars, electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars being designed and developed; plus lots of scientists working on ethanol from non-food sources and lighter, stronger materials to use in basic construction and longer lasting batteries; it looks like a move is being made in the right direction. 

Wrong. The flex fuel cars are only available on a limited basis and mostly sold in the corn belt, where E85 is available all over. Surprise. Not really, since the government actually gives huge subsidies to farmers to use their corn crops for fuel and virtually no money to research and production of other non-food sourced ethanol; with absolutely no discernment between processes that cause more pollution in the production phases and ones that don't. And, E85 flex fuel efficiency is already way lower than regular fuel. Oh, that and the production process of corn based ethanol is actually polluting more than the end result saves, so it's actually making more of an environmental problem. It's a lose/lose product. Can you say: "Greedy scam!"?

With all the hype, you'd also think the move to hybrids is a good thing. Which it is, if the technology is optimized. Did you know that the newer "more efficient" electric with gasoline back up hybrids actually get worse gas milage than the discontinued gasoline with electric back up ones did? Honda Insight was the first of the later type and it got lower gas mileage as it was rereleased right up until it was discontinued but, still gets better gas mileage than the newer hybrids of the same size! Actually. It got about the same gas mileage as a Geo Metro. Hell, I get the same gas mileage on my five year old non hybrid Hyundai as a friend does with a similar sized, brand new, Honda Hybrid! As for the other hybrid options, well, they aren't even options until they start making them. 

So, even though over use of mass produced food based biodiesel is becoming a definite problem, current ethanol fuels are still the worst of the "environmental" helpers here in the States. Besides all the other problems, most of the ethanol from corn is going into our regular gas tanks - none of which are made to run on alcohol - which actually makes every tank of gas "up to 10%" less fuel efficient (I get up to 10 miles a gallon more on gas without ethanol or very little ethanol added!) which means we're all buying more gas so it defeats the purpose. Not to mention the production process for the corn ethanol they're spiking our tanks with is actually more polluting over all than if we didn't use it. 

So, how does this directly relate to jewelry makers and other crafters? 

Well, more food being used for fuel is mostly what's driving up food prices - even when fuel costs are lower - so more people are spending otherwise disposable income on necessities. Worse gas mileage while prices are so high means more of that same income is being spent on gas. Which means less money being spent anywhere else. Which is why fewer people are coming out to the fairs and shows. Crafters and artists and designers, of course, are all in the same boat: paying high prices while trying to make a living, while no one can afford to help them out in that respect. Plus, with delivery costs being so high, all of our basic necessities for our crafts are increasing in cost as well, so we have to charge more to make a profit. Not a good thing. 

It all effects everyone in some way, and this particular "It" is a doozy! If this race to make food based fuel keeps up, it's only going to get worse. Even when gas prices go back down. 

Eliminating corn, and other food crops, as fuel will lower the prices of ALL food products. Eliminating ethanol from our fuel will increase efficiency (and actually reduce the pollution the corn ethanol production makes), and so require less gas while the prices are so high (so does keeping your car tuned and regularly maintained by the way). Changing over from gas to fuels made from waste products, or to electric, will strengthen the country's economy over all. That in turn will mean more money goes back into the regular economy and everyone wins. It's really simple economics. 

So, what can you do to help change this current abuse and get us all moving to the win/win situation we'd all like to be in? Lobby to have the 10% ethanol requirement removed. Write your representatives and tell them you want a ban on using food for fuel and the subsidies going to pay for that food based fuel rerouted to people producing switch grass, algae, corn stalks and other waste product fuel. Tell them you want research grants to go to people working in these fields so they can speed up the research process to get viable mass production from those sources in the next couple years, not ten. If you can afford it, invest in companies that are investing in more sustainable fuel production (GM, surprisingly, is one of them). Tell the major car companies that you will buy their cars IF and WHEN they run on non-gas, non-food fuels; ask if you can reserve yours now. Plug in hybrids are a good idea too; and those are currently  much more feasible for a quick turn around for change; so encourage the companies that have put that technology on the shelf to bring it down. Tell your representative you want extensive tax breaks for switching over to non-gas powered transport now. 

If we all encourage government and commerce to invest in the infrastructure necessary to publicly provide these alternative fuels, now (most companies won't even start production until the fuels are widely available), things will start changing as soon the new government is in. You have to let them know that's a priority though. The more people who speak up, the more they will listen. You can even suggest that the government make these types of changes first. Starting with their own fleets! Hello, Post Office!? No lip service required. Telling them this now, and implying that making these changes is implicit in getting your vote, is key. 

Most people think this is going to take YEARS. In fact, the only barrier to the problems we have are more social and psychological - and governmental. If we speak out and demand products that are possible now, then the companies and government will change quicker. It would be economically better for everyone, so if everyone wants it... and makes a lot of noise about it... it will happen sooner. That's how California almost changed over to electric cars in a just a couple years. It's completely feasible and completely reasonable. As long as we all speak up and ask for it. Demand it. NOW!