Sunday, May 30, 2010
On this particular Sunday, on the eve of Summer, our farmers' market is overflowing with produce and people. There are fresh mustard greens, sweet peas, fava beans, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, artichokes, red and white onions, radishes, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, beets, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, chard, squash, leeks, basil, garlic, cilantro, parsley, scallions, cauliflowers, spinach, yams, bok choys, and pumpkins. For fruits, there are cherries, blueberries, oranges, nectarines, apricots, peaches and strawberries. Producers are offering generous helpings of their fruits to persuade buyers to buy. A ten-pound bag of oranges cost $5 dollars, a basket of ripe, fat blueberries $4. Products are flying off the, well, tables. There are also jalapeno, hot mango and ginger chutnies, vegetable-stuffed bread, pita bread, and spicy black-bean hummus.
Women in colorful saris and kimonos abound. Smiling fathers in straw hats adroitly maneuver their babies in strollers around crowds. Children scoot around the fountain at the center of the market, laughing hysterically as they splash water on each other. A musician is coaxing mournful sounds from his violin while a guitarist is strumming and singing his heart out next to a table of orchids. Friends and families are animated. Strangers are no longer strangers as they freely discuss the benefits of this and that green. "Each bunch for just a dollar! What a bargain!"
A sociologist has estimated that people have ten times as many conversations in farmers' markets as they do in the supermarket. It must be more than that, if this market is any indication. No one is in a hurry. There is time to chat, pause, smile, and appreciate food grown locally with love and care.
Farmers' markets are helping to bring the family meal back. Children are learning where the food that they eat come from, which is more than enough reason why you should visit your local farmers' market with your family every week if you can.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
For about 14 years, I edited a magazine for a non-profit organization. I introduced a feature in it called "Two Puzzles" that had nothing to do with the magazine's objectives. I lifted these puzzles shamelessly from Gardner's books such as "The Unexpected Hanging" and "Perplexing Puzzles and Tantalizing Teasers." Readers took the "Two Puzzles" more seriously than the main articles and sent me their solutions with glee, proving that intellectual fun was more compelling than earnest discourse on this and that.
We are unlikely to see the likes of Martin Gardner again. The culture and the narrowness of interest in disciplines exclude this possibility. But his more than 50 books will continue to delight generations with their mix of seriousness and playfulness, and with their unique brand of humor and sense of wonder.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster - 200,000 gallons a day - that currently threatens
Of all the renewable energy sources, solar energy is drawing the most attention for its potential to wean
Although sunlight is abundant and free, solar cells and the equipment needed to convert their direct-current output to alternating current (panels, inverter, charge controller, storage batteries) is expensive. Electricity generated by solar cells currently stands at about $4 per watt for full installation, more than twice as expensive as electricity from fossil fuels. Also, solar cells can operate only during daylight hours. In contrast, a coal or natural gas plant can run around the clock, which means the cost for building the plant can be spread over many more hours of use. Only when the solar cost comes down to about $1 per watt will large-scale adoption become a reality. Unfortunately that can take anywhere from 10-15 years, unless the urgency is translated into national policy.
The result? In 1999,
Still, nothing can justify the fact that solar energy currently provides less than 1% of
President Obama is determined to increase the renewable percentage through new and more efficient solar technologies. By 2012, clean energy must contribute 8% of the nation’s energy needs. So far, the administration is on target.
But change is coming. Americans are switching careers to become renewable energy entrepreneurs. In
As a consultant to Workforce, I have seen firsthand how the excellent solar curriculum and hands-on training have enabled some students to launch their own solar service businesses while others were snapped up by local solar companies.
The Nobel Peace-laureate and conservation icon Al Gore wrote that the time will soon come for "21st-century technologies that use fuel that is free forever: the sun, the wind and the natural heat of the earth."
No question about it: we must transform the solar challenge into clean energy opportunities for all.