Pandodyssey™ Panda Blog

This is a blog devoted to Giant Panda enthusiasts, environmental wanna-bes and peace loving funimals, world-wide.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sushi and Coffee - A Perfect Meal

Happy 300th blog post! This is how Blogger greeted me today - somewhat accusatorily, somewhat smugly, as if to say "300? Just 300? WOW. That's really, uuhh ..... so, 300 huh?"

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any environmental subject that I really felt like writing about for the 3-0-0 edition of Pandoyssey, Not Really Even a Panda Blog Anymore. Well, except for this disturbing NYT article on mercury laden tuna sushi, which just made me want to cry because they (the NYT and Rutgers U) tested some of the best sushi restaurants in Manhattan and still came up mercury positive. Way positive. As in, these mercury levels are so high, the EPA could step in and halt US tuna consumption today on grounds of public health concerns. (heh heh, not to worry though - today's EPA is business friendly, and thus completely un-concerned with such small matters like public health and safety). If mercury levels are off the charts in these nice Manhattan establishments, I don't even want to think about the mercury that could be in the sushi I eat every Friday night at that hole in the wall down the street. And....mercury?? Where the heck does all this mercury come from anyway? Are there thermometer manufacturers all over the world, just heaving and chucking old-school thermometers into the ocean by the boatloads? Argh. So so depressing, I can hardly stand it.

No, it's probably best to dwell on cheerier topics like COFFEE! Ummmm, coffee, arghhhhh... Check out this slide show on the $20,000 coffee machine. It's pretty crazy. Looking something like a homegrown meth lab, this apparatus purportedly makes the most incredible cup o' joe on the planet. This is not for novices folks! In fact, the Japanese hand carve their own bamboo paddles (used to stir the grounds) to achieve a perfect fit with the palm of the hand and ensuring proper stirrage. Coooooool.

Drowning my sushi sorrows in coffee. See, that totally took my mind offa that pesky little mercury problem.

Pictured above: Mr. Coffee suddenly feels inadequate.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Octane Discussion

In a article, the Green Lantern asks "Is high octane gas bad for the environment?" I sum up the Green Lantern's thoughts on the subject thusly, sans science:

If you drive a car whose manual directs you to use only high-octane gas (93 octane), you should.

Everyone else, should not. Why? Because it won't do you any good, it won't get you any more MPGs and in fact, it could seriously harm your vehicle's engine. Which in turn, can seriously harm your mental state and do terrible things to the state of your bank account in costly auto repairs. In addition, ultimately it's bad for the environment: "Ten percent of the energy a car uses in its lifetime is expended during its production, so the greenest decision is often the one that keeps your vehicle on the road for as long as possible."

So in that regard, Hondas and Toyotas, what with their great gas mileages and practically infinite life spans, might be the greenest options on the road today. So why are they too opposed to upping the federal mandate on higher gas mileage requirements? They're already there!?

It's because the auto manufacturers are influenced by the oil guys. Without asking anyone for their secret formula, we'll agree that it's safe to assume that it takes more energy to produce higher octane fuel than regular octane fuel. The Green Lantern surmises that if every oil company lowered its highest octane ratings from 93 to 92 octane, the nation's gasoline efficiency could be improved by up to 2%, or 182,000 additional barrels of gasoline a day. "Over a full year, the reduction would save us about 143.1 million barrels of oil annually—enough to satisfy our national oil demand for about seven days."

143.1 million barrels of fuel sounds like a lot, but it will only fuel our country for seven days. Since oil companies make a ton of money convincing people to spend more on fuel and then to spend even more on more expensive fuel, it's up to the consumer to be as well informed as possible, and try to make smarter choices. We the consumer need to see through the hype and make sure we're spending our money the way we want to spend it and not on industry hype.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. After the dysfunctional love/hate/more hate relationship that was the LR Freelander (talk about your unhappy engines), I too wondered "To octane or not to octane, that is the question" when considering buying a new vehicle. E and I shopped, but even in this great country of choices on top of choices, there is little that's truly appealing in the area of small-SUV/ light truck with decent gas mileage. In fact, we had almost convinced ourselves that the Ford Escape was a viable option because it was a hybrid. However, in light of our most recent car woes (involving the aforementioned Freelander and a 3000-mile, silent white-knuckled race across the country against a leaking transmission) all American-manufactured vehicles were derisively laughed at, and crossed off the list. We looked some more, and came across the FJ Cruiser by Toyota. Off-beat, SUV-like, with a large space in the back for the dogs, it wasn't my favorite, but by golly, it was a reliable make and it would certainly suit our needs.

Then, the catch: 93-octane mandatory!

Our mutual response was at once both plaintive and furious: Oh HELL no! We'd both walk before any car company could convince us to commit to high-octane fuel for the next 60 months.

As a result, now I drive a Santa Fe by Hyundai. With its 25 MPG, regular octane fuel and 100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty, this is exactly the vehicle we needed to help us recover from the emotional abuse of the Freelander. The Santa Fe is a nice little car and, at times, I feel wholly undeserving of such a sweet natured, simple vehicle. (I hear this happens to abused folks sometimes, the internal guilt that stems from a happier life circumstance.) All the Santa Fe wants to do is get me from point A to B without drama, fuss, or emitting smoke from under the hood. And yet, I find myself occasionally wishing that it was a little flashier, a little hotter, a little greener even! Alas, sometimes you give up style points to stay true to yourself and to make the bigger point. The point being "Screw you Toyota and your 93-octane snobbiness!" Maybe my next car will be a hybrid. Sigh.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dreaming of a Green Vacation

Back around Thanksgiving, my unemployed self decided in the truest of holiday spirits that, this Christmas, my loved ones wouldn't want any ole mass produced store bought gifts. Oh no, my nearest and dearests would much prefer gifts from the heart. Something homemade and painstakingly created with pure love. (Plus, I'm really poor. See aforementioned unemployment status.) I knew they would prefer a gift that warms both the body and the soul. THIS, I thought, THIS would be the year that the Christmas Spirit is returned to its original roots: the joy of giving, the graciousness of receiving, the celebration of joy and family and traditions that bind the generations both old and new. And stuff.

Fast forward three and a half weeks to today, to find a wild-eyed Me, brandishing knitting needles, fifteen balls of yarn and six partially finished Christmas presents. The "spirit" coursing through my veins today is one that has heart palpitations and swears profusely, "What the $%*@ was I thinking???"

So, with that in mind, I am knitting furiously and day-dreaming of a warm tropical sunny place to go after Christmas, you know, once the wounds from my fingers having fallen off have adequately healed. November 2007's Travel & Leisure has an article on their top 15 "eco-hotel" choices. If not for the article title however, you'd never know you were looking at "eco-hotels". These hotels are not granola-ey in the least, and some are downright luxurious, not to mention jaw-droppingly beautiful. (check out the Fushi Resort's pool, in the Maldives). Ranging from Grenada to South Africa, there's an eco-hotel wherever you want to go. Myself, I'm leaning towards Morgan's Rock Hacienda in Nicaragua.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gratuitous Pandas

You know, some people might find useful ways to pass their time. Me? I pride myself on finding highly entertaining yet ultimately useless pics and vids of baby pandas. Well worth the effort, imho.

Here's another [insert city name]-ist blog that is crazy about pandas. (If you will recall, the DCist blog went through a Pandodyssey-like phase cooing over Tai Shan.) The Shanghaiist has linked THREE adorably panda clips. SSFW: if you're pretending to work, be wary of annoyingly brisk holiday music in the first clip.

Follow that page's link to this one at Life in the Fast Lane, where an essay on the life of a panda - rife with illustration - awaits.

Pictured above: pandas en masse are cuter.

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A panda, by any other name, would be so cute

The panda cub at the SD Zoo has a name! She will be called Zhen Zhen, which in Chinese translates as "I hate my name". Zhen Zhen turned 100 days old on Monday.

Despite the lousy appellation, she's still extremely cute.

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My what big eyes you have!

Wanna show your support for victims of breast cancer? Then get topless and make yourself one of these awesome ceramic panda breast plates. For the price of 12 pounds (which according to my math, using today's exchange rate, carry the one...equals approximately 2,000 US dollars), you too can dip the twins in black paint and, ahem, make your mark on a dinner plate. Also available are plate designs in bumblebee and holiday pudding. Raise even more cash for cancer research by 'painting' an entire matching table setting! Just think of all the holiday mammaries and the impression you'll leave on Grandma this season.

Pictured above: a breast plate, and not the Gladiator kind either.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fossil Fuels Won't Power This Search Engine

Google has stepped into the renewable energy world in a huge way. Both and (Google's non-profit arm) are ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars on new and promising renewable energy projects. In teaming up with universities and companies, the Googles will attempt to find ways to lower the cost of renewables. Today, coal is still the cheapest source of energy, costing 2 - 4 cents per kilowatt hour. Google hopes to drop the cost of renewable energy down to 1 - 3 cents per kilowatt hour, finally making renewables a viable option to coal fired power plants.

I'm a believer in Google. As the most successful company in existence today, I am totally psyched about Google getting so heavily involved in the search for alternative energy. With big guns like Google on board, fossil fuels don't stand a chance. Now it's just a matter of time.

I wonder if Google would want to fund my alternative energy solution? I would pay people by the kilowatt hour to work out on treadmills and bikes and stair masters, harness the energy that's generated and then use the energy to power the building itself, or sell it to the power company. Think of it as recycling those indulgent Thanksgiving feast calories into useful electricity - The PandodyGym!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

fashionably panda

Beijing has drafted a law that will ban THIS. Thank God!!!

Unfortunately, it is NOT a ban on bad fashion, but a ban on abusing or debasing the panda's image. Which this dress does.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Viva Vegetable Oil

How great would it be if you could refuel your car with cooking oil from your kitchen cabinet? That's exactly what Jared Fisher, owner of Escape Adventures - a sightseeing company, resorted to one morning when he discovered his company car's tank was on 'E'.

Earlier this year, Fisher spent around $9000 converting his six-vehicle fleet into hybrid vehicles that operate on either diesel fuel or vegetable oil. Fisher spends 4-6 hours a week driving around Vegas and pumping used vegetable oil from local restaurants for use in his vehicles. He estimates he has pumped roughly 3000 gallons of oil so far - nearly enough to make up for the entire cost of modifying his fleet.

People complain about the astronomical costs upfront to capture, convert, and store alternative energy, and how it's not feasible or easy to make money from going green. Then, you've got this guy who says "Nuts to that!" and for a $10,000 initial investment, is already seeing returns on his money. Plus, he's found a source of free fuel while simultaneously decreasing his expenditures on diesel fuel. Brilliant!

A business that's both green and profitable? Who would've thought it? I might have to invent The Medalodyssey to award to this guy and his corn oil cars. The Medalodyssey would be almost as prestigious as the Nobel Prize, but instead of a cash award and international recognition, you would receive a cheaply-crafted panda-themed gift in the mail sent to you C.O.D.