Thursday, October 9, 2008


First, have you read "In Defense of Food," the latest book by Michael Pollan? If you haven't, get thee to your local library and do so as soon as possible. It's a very readable and very remarkable indictment of the American food industry and the rise of the "nutritionism" pseudoscience. Interesting stuff that will definitely make you think differently about what we eat, why we eat it and how we probably should be eating. Suffice it to say, many of us are doing it wrong. I was fascinated and inspired.

Speaking of fascinated and inspired, another book that I actually bought is Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian." Now, I'm not a vegetarian and neither is Jeff, but I confess that having two living, breathing chickens walking around the backyard makes me look rather differently at the meat on the plate. Coupled with Pollan's summary maxim--"Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."--and the general idea that less meat might be more for both me and the planet, more forays into the world of vegetarian cooking can't be a bad thing. This particular cookbook is filled with great, easy recipes and a lot of "base recipes" with multiple variation, like 13 ways to do vegetarian/bean burgers or Asian noodle dishes. I can vouch for the deliciousness of the basic veggie burger recipe, which is saying a lot since I usually find them akin to a soggy piece of cardboard recently used by a homeless gentleman as a sleeping accommodation. I highly recommend this one and will be adding some of the recipes to the family cookbook if I EVER get around to sending out an update. I know I'm behind!

And, being more environmentally aware here at the HandyHouse means occasionally trying something that seems totally out there. This week's experiment? Using apple cider vinegar (1 Tbsp diluted in one cup of plain old tap water) as, of all things, hair conditioner. Theoretically, it was supposed to make my hair soft and shiny and ever so nice. But, anyone who knows me knows that I have a lot of hair. Very thick, very tangly hair that has never been without the smoothing joys of hair conditioner since I stopped using Johnson & Johnson's No More Tears as a wee babe. But, thought I, what the hey? What's the worst thing that could happen? Well, the worst thing that happened was . . . my hair came out soft and shiny and ever so nice. I swear, it worked like a charm! Don't ask me how or why, for the science of pH balancing is well beyond my puny brain, but it totally, totally worked. Try it! Just use the formula above, rinse about a cup of the mix through your hair and rinse it out. I'm curious to know your results if you do.  That said, I take no responsibility for more interesting results than the ones I experienced.  I'm just the eco-messenger here!

We're certainly experiencing interesting times these days, but I like to remember these words from the Dalai Lama:
"It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others."

Here's hoping we all have the chance to recognize and embrace our potential.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Amazing Patent

The patent has finally gone public, so now I can tell you what Jeff and I have been helping Neil McCanney, my mom's husband, do for the last three years or so. Neil has come up with a totally innovative engine/power plant that produces hydrogen on-demand from plain old water as it's working to power a car, a boat, your house, whatever.

Why is this innovative? Well, you can read more about it by clicking on the title of this post (in the "Press" section of the site, there are links to a press release and Q&A that I wrote about it), but, in summary, it solves the so-far insurmountable issues of hydrogen production and storage, both of which have totally stymied the use of hydrogen as a widespread alternative fuel source. That's pretty amazing right there. Neil's engine requires a small amount of gasoline/diesel to create the heat needed for the reaction, but the end result is a drastic reduction in CO2 pollution and the equivalent of 250-400 miles per gallon. Crazy! Even cooler is the fact that the invention consists of parts that are available right now.  People are talking about alternative energy technologies being available in 10 years or 20 or 30 (or when it's far too late?). Why not 2 or 3 years? It's doable, so let's do it already.

It's been a huge challenge for all of us to get the invention this far. Now we're on the hunt for both funding and publicity so we can actually create the thing. Given that none of us have done this before, this is proving to be no small task. Just try getting the attention of anyone in Washington during an election year. While candidates make endless noise about green revolutions and alternative energy, people knocking at their doors with practicable ideas can't get anyone to listen. Frustrating to say the least. Still, we're persevering. For me, it's not only a chance to be part of a solution to our own energy crisis here in America, but, more importantly, a chance to provide technology to a rapidly developing world that deserves to advance but could be spared the same mistakes we've so tragically made. To put the entire planet on a road to sustainable development in a way that shares resources in a far more equitable manner rather than forcing people to squabble and bleed for them? That's a project I'm willing to spend my time and energy pursuing. It's the just thing to do.

So, if anyone reading this happens to know a venture capitalist or agency interested in economic and social justice through energy independence, let me know.  In the meantime, send out some positive energy, alternative or otherwise, please!