Wednesday, May 30, 2007


My kids are heavily into this cartoon called Avatar: The Last Airbender. Uh, well...okay, I'm really into it too. I'm trying hard to resist my impulse to explain the show and justify my watching a kid's cartoon, but let me just say--it has excellent female characters. Any father of young girls knows how scarce good role models can be in pop culture.

So when Eden's birthday rolled around, I thought I'd check and see if I could find a Katara doll. Katara is Eden's favorite. She's a "water bender" and becomes a kick ass fighter, but she's also a healer and has a strongly nurturing persona. Kind, yet feisty. You gotta love her. She's one of the main (human) characters and has been in all 40 (so far) episodes.

I was pleased to discover that Avatar 'action figures' were available. They even have relatively obscure characters that only appear in a few shows. But no Katara doll. I was shocked! Actually, they have no female characters at all. Hmmmm. I'm not the only one appalled by this, I was able to sign an on-line petition to Mattel and Nickelodean demanding a Katara doll.

With some misgivings I ventured into the bowels of ToysRUs to buy Eden an Aang doll (made in China by political prisoners. It was only $6!) Aang is great too, but clearly second choice.

In ToysRUs I discovered that toys these days are pretty much segregated. The boys have action figures focused primarily on war, death, combat, weapons and chaos. Girls get puffy pink ponies, fake makeup and dolls dressed like hookers.

Katara clearly doesn't fit either aisle. Though for that matter, neither does Aang. I hope they can team up to somehow defeat the sexist forces of corporate America and bring some much needed balance to the psyches of children everywhere.

In the meantime, Krista is planning to make Eden a Katara doll out of felt.

If you'd like to watch the show, here's a link.
I recommend starting with the first episode, although in episode 2x19 The Guru, Aang is given a great explanation of the chakras and how to open them!

BATTLE ON, Katara! Equal toys for girls!

The Dawn of Electronic Shopping - 1967

Clip from the 1967 film 1999 A.D. Pretty swish!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Compressed Air Car (from India)

From an article at Ecogeek.

The world’s first commercial compressed air-powered vehicle is rolling towards the production line. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre, will be built by India’s largest automaker, Tata Motors.

The Air Car uses compressed air to push its engine’s pistons. It is anticipated that approximately 6000 Air Cars will be cruising the streets of India by 2008. If the manufacturers have no surprises up their exhaust pipes the car will be practical and reasonably priced. The CityCat model will clock out at 68 mph with a driving range of 125 miles.

Refueling is simple and will only take a few minutes. That is, if you live nearby a gas station with custom air compressor units. The cost of a fill up is approximately $2.00. If a driver doesn't have access to a compressor station, they will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tank in about 4 hours.

The compressed air technology is basically just a way of storing electrical energy without the need for costly, heavy, and occasionally toxic batteries. So, in a sense, this is an electric car. It just doesn't have an electric motor.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Hang Drum

I want one of these things! Alas, you pretty much have to travel to Bern, Switzerland to get one and it will set you back about $1500! Until then, I guess I'll just keep banging away on our stainless steel mixing bowl.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Birthday Goddess

Birthday Goddess
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

What a great month for having birthdays. I'm so happy and grateful we have such nice friends.

A little help from the wind

A little help from the wind
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Yesterday I took the girls to Ethan's #5 birthday party at Ragle Park. A good time was had by all! Check out my photos on Flickr.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Miniature Earth

You may have seen this before. If the Earth was a village with just 100 people how would it look? Certainly an eye opener and a strong prompting to appreciate what we have, but also sad.
I've been working lately with the idea that any sad, horrible or distressing thing that enters my awareness is an opportunity to employ contrast to focus on what I want. I've been calling it the 180 technique. So if, for example, I see a distressing image of a malnourished child, instead of dwelling on the sadness there and feeling bummed out about the state of the world, or angry about politics, or powerless in the face of an ocean of suffering--I turn 180 degrees around to identify what it is I do want: a world where everyone has enough to eat, a world where all children are valued, a world where governments are not corrupt, but actually serve their citizens. I can choose to focus on what I want long enough to feel good about it.

This change of focus is an action
. According to the "law of attraction" folks, just doing this and this alone is sufficient to effect real physical change in my world.

And this is an idea that might really piss off a more traditional 'activist', because they don't see how it works. And how it works may be difficult or impossible to understand without a scientific re-education in quantum physics. Too bad angry activist. You'll have to go see What The Bleep Do We Know? and watch The Secret. For good measure you practice some EFT and listen to Bruce Lipton talk about the Biology of Perception.

But whether or not you believe that changing your focus is a valid "action" to making the world a better place, there's no reason anyone has to stop with that action. I think most of us are much more likely to donate money, write a congressman, talk to neighbors or whatever, if we are feeling positive, hopeful and excited about what we want to move towards, instead of what we're outraged by or feeling powerless about.

For me, using this '180 technique' does not come naturally. It takes awareness and discipline. It's a new skill I guess. I invite you to try it out and this video may give you a few opportunities.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

Meadow Flowers 2
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Yesterday we enjoyed Mother's Day with our Tumbleweeds playgroup. After a lovely brunch at Cape Fear Cafe in Duncans Mills we headed over to Shell Beach, but instead of hitting the beach we hiked up Pomo Canyon Trail.
It was supposed to be about an hour long hike, but it turned out to be more of 'a three hour tour'. Fortunately it was so incredibly beautiful no one really minded.
We had wide sweeping vistas of the coastline, meadows full of May flowers, dark passages through pine and redwood stands and a plunging narrow trail through lush canyons rank with every kind of wild shrub. It was so closed in and quiet we felt like we must be the only people left on Earth.
What a delightful time we had. Mother's Day with Mother Earth. I've go t lots of photos over on Flickr.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Krista in Springtime
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

The late May rains have set the flowers going like mad. We go for walks and are just astonished by the beauty. And what goes better with pretty flowers than a beautiful woman?

Alas, my poor wee vegetable starts were drowning after all the rain. The planting mix I used wasn't draining well at all. I replanted the hardiest of them yesterday and this morning (moon in Pisces). I also planted a little sugar pumpkin patch over at Krista's folks. They've got a sunny little side yard and a drip system that Jerry and I put in a few years ago. Perfect! I also planted some tomatoes, a zuke or two and four peppers. Maybe we'll sit out there in October waiting like Linus for the Great Pumpkin.
I've got our own little back deck planted like a farm--everything in containers. Some of the tomatoes are getting pretty big already and starting to blossom! I seriously need to get them staked up.
I've got zuchinni and pumpkins out there too, and I'm wondering what the hell we'll do when they start getting big!

The hardest thing for me in all this is composting (killing off) some of the little starts we don't need. It seems so cruel! And wasteful. I'm a sentimental idiot and I've got WAY too many plants.

Cat Man

Cat Man
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

I accidentally caught my friend Danny transforming into a cat! I've known him for years and had no idea he could morph this way. Meow!
Jon looks on in amazement. Click on the photo to see it larger--you can almost see the whiskers!

Zoe Rose

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Birthday Party Time

The Cake
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

We had a nice little party for Eden's 9th birthday today. Our place is too small for many guests, so it was just Eden's regular playmates (which took a little stress out of getting ready and cleaning house).
We were lucky to have a nice warm sunny afternoon and lots of laughter. We're blessed with very funny loved ones, even though the humor can get a little crude!
Krista knocked herself out with quiche, pizzas and this pink cake. India made short slide show videos for Aja, Zoe and Zephyr, from our stockpile of photos. She did a really good job too. I think she has a knack for it.
I potted strawberry plants for the guests to take home.
When all the guests were leaving Eden declared it a 'really great birthday'.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ron Paul at the Debates

I came across this video of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas at the recent republican debates. Kind of interesting.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Another New Solar Power Plant

A beautiful and simple power station in Spain, using mirrors to focus sunlight on this tower to produce heat for steam turbines. Here's a link to the BBC report, which includes an excellent video clip.
I can't help thinking how simple, elegant, sustainable and cost effective this design is, compared to those other steam making nuclear power plants, with their radioactivity and lethal waste products.
I also wonder how many of these plants we could fund with the money currently being wasted each day in Iraq? There are vast stretches of Nevada, Arizona and even Southern California that could host these solar plants. Let's get on it!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Western Train Museum

Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

On the last Saturday of April, the girls and I joined Jerry, Jon and Zephyr on a trip to the Western Train Museum in Rio Vista. Well, actually, the museum is out in the middle of nowhere (which, as it turns out, takes about an hour and a half to reach from our house).

There used to be an electric train route from downtown Oakland all the way to Sacramento, back in the early part of the 1900s. The train actually crossed over water on a ferry boat at one section! The track had a 1200 volt third rail too! Zaaaap.

They’ve restored about 5 miles of track and run their ‘museum on wheels’ down and back. It was a pretty rocky ride. All along the route was a big windpower farm, with huge turbines. A nice contrast with the old fashioned train cars.
It was hard to get a sense of how big these turbines were. The engineer told me the nacelles (the part that holds the blades) were about as big as a school bus. And they stand about 300 feet high—the length of a football field!

The old cars they’ve restored are gorgeous. It must have been so cool to be able to hop aboard a tram, trolley or streetcar and be whisked downtown. Selling real estate was the driving force behind all the tram lines. They’d run a service out to the countryside and folks would buy lots and build houses. They had photos of the open hills and meadows around Oakland before it got all built up.

The following little known bit of history is swiped (and roughly quoted) from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation:
“In the late 1920s, using a number of front corporations, GM secretly began to purchase trolley systems throughout the US,—more than 100 in all. These were completely dismantled, their tracks ripped up and cars burned, to be replaced with bus lines. With new buses built by GM.
In 1947 GM and a number of its allies in the scheme were indicted on federal antitrust charges. Two years later, the workings of the conspiracy and its underlying intentions, were exposed during a trial in Chicago. GM, Mack Truck, Firestone, and Standard Oil of California were all found guilty by a federal jury. The companies were fined $5000 each and the executives who had secretly plotted and carried out the destruction of America’s light rail network were fined $1 each.”

I saw a photo once of hundreds of LA’s trolleys stacked five high just before they were torched. I think of that whenever I hear the term ‘conspiracy theory’.

Anyhow, the museum visit was great. I’ve got a little video here of the highlights.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Quan Yin

Quan Yin
Originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

I took some time off this evening to do an art project with a Quan Yin photo I took a few weeks ago. If you click on the image you can see it bigger. Somehow the colors became a little lurid when I uploaded to Flickr. Not sure why that happened.