It’s Sun Oven Season: Solar Cooking Revs Up!

By InsightAnalytical-GRL

(Cross-posted from Open Range Ramblings)

At the Jersey Shore, Memorial Day weekend is the traditional kick-off of the summer season.  Here in southern New Mexico,  we ease into summer early, usually during May. And that’s when my solar cooking kicks into high gear!

The great thing about living in the Southwest is that I can use my Sun Oven all year long. In more northern climates the winter gray will curtail its use.  But, temperatures won’t stop you–so on a clear, sunny winter day, you can cook!

Here during the summer, when the sun shines down from high in the sky and the days are longer, I can use it to cook several meals in one day.  And, it costs nothing and doesn’t heat up the kitchen and make the A/C run like crazy.

I’ve had my Sun Oven for about a year and it’s fantastic. I bought it for “self-sufficiency.” This simple but well-engineered oven uses no electricity or gas and can cook, dehydrate, and pasteurize water.  Just the thing to have around if things get dicey if and when the dollar collapses under the weight of our national debt.

In the meantime, I’m just enjoying it for its own sake.  I have to say that this thing makes the BEST sweet potatoes (yams) that I have ever tasted! No need to candy them with extra sugar–they candy themselves.  So much better than baking in a regular oven, microwave or boiling them!!   In fact, all foods taste wonderful.  Seriously, for this reason alone the Sun Oven is worth having!

Side view of the oven

I bought my oven after attending a talk at our co-op given by the president of the company that makes them.  They are carefully designed and are so well insulated (with non-toxic materials) that they are able to keep food warm after cooking is completed, something most solar ovens can’t do.  The company has worked with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and governments to fulfill their mission:

Our Mission

SUN OVENS International, Inc. is striving to develop and implement comprehensive solar cooking programs that will radically decrease the developing world’s dependence on fuel wood and dung as the primary cooking fuels while benefiting the environment, raising the standard of living and improving the health of the poor worldwide.

From ice fishermen in Minnesota baking their catch on a frozen lake to desert dwellers in Kuwait baking lamb,
SUN OVENS® are helping people everywhere!

“Everywhere” includes the following countries (click on the the links to find out the details about these efforts):

You can get all the details on how the ovens are built and operate at the Sun Ovens International site.

Here are some more pics of the oven:

Reflectors fully opened...

The oven is easy to carry when closed up...

Since the oven weighs only 21 pounds, it’s easy to carry and set up anywhere!  And yet, it’s big enough to roast whole chickens and a decent- sized turkey! There are loads of recipes here at the Sun Oven International site…but it’s easy to create your own and adjust them to cooking solar.

Aside from cooking the best yams ever, I like using my oven to make casseroles. I put some elbow macaroni in the bottom of a blue Pyrex baking dish that I’ve sprayed with cooking spray, add vegetables, and pour over diced tomatoes or broth.  After the oven is preheated (usually to about 350 degrees or even higher on extreme sun days), I pop the dish into the oven and walk away, except to check on where the sun is every half hour or so and move the oven slightly to catch the maximum light.   If I start a dish for dinner at about 3:30 p.m. I’m ready to eat by 5 or so and if I eat later, the food is still warm.  If I want to cook during the noon hour, cooking time goes way down…often to cooking times similar to those of a conventional oven.  You can even put your food in the oven before going to work and come home to a fully cooked meal!

Solar-cooked foods are extremely healthy, too, because you can cook without any oil.  Natural juices are retained and food is delectable!

The oven comes with a dark enamel pot and lid which  maximizes heat retention. But, if I want to check on the progress of a dish, a dark glass dish (red or blue) will do fine (especially for casseroles–see above).    It’s easy to tell when a dish is starting to cook…food smells begin to waft out of the oven and once condensation starts to form on the glass, you know that some serious cooking is underway!  If the dogs are out, they start to sniff the good smells, too!

Here’ are some pics of a dish I made the other day for dinner:  eggplant with onions, garlic and tomatoes over pasta.

Ready to start cooking...

Within 45 minutes, cooking is progressing nicely.

Serious cooking underway, lovely smells wafting...

Even though clouds cut into the sunlight later in the afternoon, the temperature in the oven stayed high enough to complete the cooking.

In addition to baking potatoes and making casseroles, I’ve baked bread and made pasta (warm up uncooked pasta in one container while water is being boiled, then dump the pasta into the hot water and continue cooking…).  It gives me a real kick to cook food “off the grid.”

As I write this, I have some yams cooking in the dark enamel pot. Here’s a pic of them nestled in, before being covered. I wash them and no extra water needs to be added. I use 4 binder clips to make the cover fit tightly, which helps them cook even faster. I don’t even prick them with a fork. Once done, they will be incredibly melt-in-your-mouth soft and sweet.  I have them at breakfast every day. Yummy! And the dogs LOVE them…

Yams ready to go...

I’m seriously thinking of getting another oven so I can cook and either bake, boil or dehydrate at the same time.  That way, if things get crazy and there’s a disruption of services, I’ll be able to put a meal on the table without a problem!

***

More info on worldwide use of solar ovens, testing various ovens, etc. at The Partnership for Clean Indoor Air site…

China Using “Soft Power” to Lock Up Venezuela’s Oil and Assure Its Energy Security

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

Add this to our growing list of “soft power” moves by China.  This time, China is getting even closer to Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, specifically, its oil reserves.  Recall that only a couple of years ago, Chavez nationalized the oil industry, including projects involving American and other foreign energy companies.  (And note that Brazil’s largest oil company has also signed a deal to supply China…)

From Bloomberg.com:

China Lends Venezuela $20 Billion, Secures Oil Supply (Update3)

April 19 (Bloomberg) — China, the world’s second-biggest consumer of oil, will lend Venezuela $20 billion and form a venture to pump crude from the Orinoco Belt, President Hugo Chavez said, vowing to meet the Asian country’s energy needs.

The financing from China is separate from a $12 billion bilateral investment fund, Chavez said, and will pay for Venezuelan development projects. Venezuela currently sends China 460,000 barrels a day of crude oil. The oil is used to repay the Asian country for $8 billion Venezuela used from the fund for infrastructure projects.

“We agreed on a huge, long-term financing plan,” Chavez said on state television on April 17. “This is a larger scope, a super heavy fund. China needs energy security and we’re here to provide them with all the oil they need.”

snip

Chavez said that the $20 billion loan is the largest that China Development Bank Corp. has extended to a country, and will go toward funding housing, railroad, energy and agriculture projects. China built and launched Venezuela’s first satellite into orbit in 2008.

China last year agreed to loan Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, as the company is known, $10 billion, and signed a long-term supply contract with the company.

“The relations between China and Venezuela extend from below the surface of the earth to outer space,” Chavez said. “We’re producing oil together and our satellite is out there in space. This is a mutating world in transition.”

And, isn’t that satellite deal interesting?

“…a mutating world in transition…”

Chavez hit that one on the head.

What We Need Are a Few Transatlantic Ocean Liners! I Remember When…

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

With the ash cloud still throwing European air travel (and beyond) into chaos over the last few days, and possibly well into the future, I had to think about how great it would be if the transatlantic ocean liners will still plying the seas.

(Editor’s Note: The Cunard Queen Mary 2 is the only transatlantic liner still in service.)

As a kid, I remember the newsreels of the Andrea Doria sinking after being hit by the Stockholm.  My grandfather had taken the trip over on the Andrea Doria but returned on another boat, thus missing the tragic voyage.  I still have the ship’s brochure. (I also have a booklet from the Leonardo DaVinci, which was built to replace the Andrea Doria.)

A few years later my grandfather’s brother returned to Italy on the S.S. United States, which is now on the verge of being scrapped. I remember going to the ship and being on the main deck…and crying uncontrollably because I was so scared and wanted to get off!  The boat seemed so HIGH above the water (I was about 9 years old at the time).

About 13 years later I was on several boats as I took the grand tour around Europe.  One passage was from Italy to Greece, a wonder trip.  Another was an overnight voyage that left from Sweden and passed by the Carlsberg beer brewery at night.  I took one look at the small cabin for four and even with a porthole, I decided to stay up on deck all night.  Couldn’t bear to be below deck!

I guess I had lots of practice being on deck from several summers of taking the New London, Connecticut ferry or the boat from Pt. Judith, Rhode Island out to Block Island, Rhode Island.  This was years before the place was discovered. A friend of my mother’s had bought an old house and was restoring it and she let us stay there.  The trips took a couple of hours which was just about right for me before I started getting antsy.  Since the cars were below deck, about the closet thing to being “enclosed” was in the seating area which also held the snack bar.

Another decade or so later, I traveled frequently to England and on one trip, I took the Hovercraft to France.  I loved the Hovercraft because the pontoons inflated like huge tires and  I felt that, in a pinch, the thing could float.  At least that thought, true or not, reassured me.   I also made my way one year to see the Mary Rose, Henry the VIII’s favorite ship which sunk in the Solent at Portsmouth.

Along the way I developed a fascination with the Titanic and saw the first traveling exhibit when it hit Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It continues to be the sort of fascination that reinforces all the scary boat stuff I seem to harbor since those days on the deck of the liner that took my “uncle” back to Italy.

On a business trip to LA back in the early 80′s I took some time and visited the Queen Mary, now in Long Beach.  Just a few weeks ago I saw a show on how they were doing a lot of restoration on this wonderful ship.

Of course, as a fan of classic movies, there are always scenes on liners and getting on and disembarking, complete with crowded piers of well wishers and streamers trailing off the side of the ships as they slowly edge away from the dock.

So, it didn’t take very long to wonder…WHAT IF THERE WERE STILL OCEAN LINERS crossing the Atlantic these days??

I found a great site that has many pictures and stories about many of the old liners.  Here’s the introduction to  Rob Lightbody’s Website:

The Great Transatlantic Ocean Liners.


Aquitania enters New YorkThe Transatlantic Ocean liners changed the world.  Up until the 1960s they were the only way to travel to the “new world”.They were the equivalent of the 747 today – but much more exciting.  Each arrival and departure in Liverpool, Southampton or New York was an event in itself.

They were extremely elegant, fantastically fast and unbelievably huge!  The biggest man made objects that could move – and boy did they move!  They were high society at sea, and THE place to be seen.

Are you American? If so, chances are your grandparents travelled on one of the great ocean liners like the Mauretania.

Are you European?  If so, chances are a relative of yours left on one of these great ships, or one of your relatives worked to build them.

What you probably don’t know, is that these great ships helped us to win two world wars – they were the biggest troopships the world has ever known.

You can scroll down to see the many great liners that once graced the seas.

Sure it took about a week for a crossing, but travelers weren’t jammed into seats and subjected to foul air and the possibility of deep vein thrombosis.

…No problem with stretching your legs on a promenade around one of the great ocean liners! (although…those cabins below deck might still get to me…)

Related Links

More pictures of the great liners (photos)

The S.S. United States (designed as a cold war weapon disguised as a passenger ship)…info on the ship and the efforts to save her)

The Andrea Doria (overview)

The Leonardo DaVinci

The Sinking of the  Andrea Doria (with audio of the reports of the sinking)

The Mary Rose

The Queen Mary

The Hovercraft(s) across the English Channel (service stopped in 2000)


Marching for Women’s Equality and Lives, Circa 1989

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

I’ve been busy over the last days talking to relatives and neighbors who have either lost a job or are not finding a job since graduating from college.  They seem to have a sense of inertia, without a clue as to what to do.

I give them a real pep talk, with practical suggestions. I lost a couple of  jobs due to recessions…back in 1975 and again in 1981.  I was willing to take pay cuts, start at the bottom, take courses, learn how to write several types of resumes, switch fields and move if I had to.  The people I have talked to don’t seem to have that sort of drive and I’m not sure why.  Things are worse now in term of a future which doesn’t bode well for a return to normalcy, of course, but I’m struck by the sense of disbelief that seems to be hampering these folks.  It’s crippling them and they aren’t prepared to look at themselves and be willing to alter their set-in-stone plans.

The same sort of paralysis seems to extend to women these days.  Sure, we’ve been sold out by the national organizations, but the misogyny and attack on women’s health seems to be quite acceptable these days.  I can’t quite understand this sort of thing, since I came up through the days when we were fighting for our rights.

I was rummaging through a drawer and found a button from 21 years ago nearly to the day.  It was a march on Washington, one of several I went to.  I remember riding on a bus put together by the local chapter of NOW.  Many women’s groups joined together. We were all fighting mad in 1989.

I’m still angry and now I’m also broken-hearted.  This button brings me back to a day when women were galvanized and had a voice.

I wonder if these days a march on Washington would be even able to be organized, if there would be any interest… and if it actually occurred, whether it would be ignored by the media.

Something is very wrong, very wrong indeed…

When we were marching...

Hey, Obama! “Shovel-Ready” Stimulus Needed for Our Water Supply Problems…(TRILLIONS of $)

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

While Barack Obama sells his Republican health care “reform,”  there seems to be some other important work being forgotten.

As economic hard times continue, many towns and cities are losing tax ratables as businesses shut down and an increasing burden is being placed on residents as aging water treatment and sewer construction funds dry up.  Projects are folding and bills are skyrocketing as detailed in the story below:

Strapped Cities Struggling to Fund Water Treatment Upgrades (N.Y. Times via Greenwire)

Excerpt:

Federal assistance declines

As for capital expenditures, Hornback said that almost all of the burden now falls on the local water agency.

During the 1970s and into the 1980s, the federal government provided construction grants to upgrade public drinking water and wastewater systems to meet stricter regulatory standards imposed by Congress. Since then, Congress has put about $2 billion into a revolving fund for loans that Hornback said is not sufficient to meet today’s needs.

There are 16,000 publicly owned wastewater treatment plants in the United States that operate 100,000 major pumping stations, 600,000 miles of sanitary sewers and 200,000 miles of storm sewers, according to U.S. EPA. That system received a grade of D- from the American Society of Civil Engineers in its latest “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.” The society noted that billions of gallons of untreated wastewater is discharged each year because of lagging investments.

Hornback said many communities would be facing a difficult challenge even if the economy were more robust. Communities historically “undervalue” their water and sewer services, charging users less than is needed to keep the systems operating to modern standards.

“The pipes in the ground are in some cases over 100 years old,” he said.

Water has to receive the same priorty as transportation, according to several parties:

NACWA has asked Congress to establish a trust fund — similar to the one used for transportation projects — to help cities and towns upgrade their water and sewer infrastructure.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council is also calling on Congress to boost federal investment in wastewater treatment plants. A March report from the council blasted Congress for authorizing a “costly and increasing wave of mandates” while essentially abandoning any effort to provide “meaningful financial assistance” to local governments.

What will it cost to repair our critical water and sewer infrastructure?

The conference report, written by senior adviser Richard Anderson, estimates that local governments will have to spend between $2.5 trillion and $4.8 trillion over the next 20 years to fulfill those demands for improved water and sewer systems.

That’s right…$2.5-$4.8 TRILLION added to our burgeoning budget (or non-budget, to be snarky about it.)

Congress seems to think they’ve done all that’s needed:

There is a “vague and false confidence among Congress that they have already addressed the issue by granting $60 billion to cities over two decades ago to build water infrastructure when the cost in a single year (2008) is over $40 billion in capital investments and another $50 billion for operations and maintenance,” Anderson wrote. “A more thorough understanding of how much is spent on public water and wastewater is a necessary first step in establishing a framework for a National Strategy.”

The report advocates adoption of a national strategy that would prioritize the mandates based on comparative risk and direct federal resources where they would have the greatest public impact.

Meanwhile, in Davenport, California, residents are “bracing” at the likelihood of a 74% increase in their sewer bill as one of their big employers has closed and someone has to make up the difference:

Household rates will likely reach $4,000 a year — $2,500 for sewer and $1,500 for water.

Who can afford THAT???

What interests me is how this fits into some of the ideas in Chris Martenson‘s Crash Course, namely, as we go through a massive economic shift, what do we have to prepare for?  Tops on the list is a viable water supply…how many of us living without wells are prepared for water problems?

When I bought my solar oven, not only did I buy it to cook food…it also boils and pasteurizes water in a pinch on a sunny day (and it does more good things, too!).

Let’s hope the Southwest keeps having sunny days…until we have energy problems and we all roast for lack of electricity to run air conditioning!

NM Rep. Let’s It Slip Out of the Bag…”What’s More, Our Unique System of Private Insurance Has Been Preserved”

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

First-term Representative Martin Heinrich, who represents the 1st Congressional District of NM (which includes Central NM and Albuquerque), needs to study up on how he delivers the propaganda message from the Obama borg.

When I read his  opinion piece/guest column in Sunday’s paper, I found myself focusing on one sentence which seemed to get to the whole point of the debacle last weekend as “health reform” passed.

His piece starts out with some hand holding:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reality: Health Care Had To Be Repaired.

By Rep. Martin Heinrich

Democrat, New Mexico First District

Health care is a very personal issue for all of us, and as a result, it’s sometimes the cause of great concern, confusion and debate.

While we all have our own personal questions regarding health care, ultimately one question gets to the heart of the public debate: Can we afford this? Can we afford our rising premiums? Can you afford this doctor visit or that prescription? Can I continue to afford to provide health insurance for my employees? Can our nation afford to reform the whole system? Can we afford to do nothing?

Then he seques into some facts:

The simple truth is that right now, we spend $1 out of every $5 on our health care. Without the health insurance reform that is now law, this would become $1 of every $3 within the decade. Try to imagine that – $1 of every $3 you have going to health care. This is not sustainable for you, your family, your employer, and definitely not for our nation as a whole. With costs continuing to skyrocket for all of us, there was no doubt in my mind that doing nothing was something we couldn’t afford.

MMM….from what I’m hearing from people already behind the eight-ball, many still will be paying a HUGE hunk of the income for insurance. Heck, speaking personally, my Medicare premiums and supplemental insurance is literally 1/3 of my monthly benefit right now!

He continues:

Last Sunday, I cast an historic vote for health insurance reform that will bring stability to hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans, provide much-needed support to our small businesses and cut the federal deficit by $1.3 trillion – reducing the deficit more than any other legislation passed since 1993.

I ain’t buying this business about all the deficit reduction, are you???

He then talks about how competitive our nation will become (really?) and how some people will have “greater control of their health care.”


The benefits of reform will be large and immediate for New Mexicans, and our nation will be stronger, healthier, and more competitive because of it.
Families, seniors and small businesses will have greater control of their health care.

Well, that sort of glosses over the fact that women’s ability to make their own decisions ranks BELOW that of  a bunch of church guys who seem to be running a worldwide pedophile ring.  Yup, that crew has superior moral authority compared to that of the average woman…

Ah, and then comes the list of goodies:


Health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to reject you because you or your child have a pre-existing condition or drop your coverage when you get sick.
Seniors will be able to get preventive services like cancer and diabetes screenings at no cost. By closing the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole, 51,900 New Mexico seniors will be able to afford their prescriptions, year-round. As part of this relief, seniors will receive $250 rebates to purchase medication in 2010, and next year they will receive a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs that fall within the doughnut hole.

Oh, give me a break! If you’re old you can be charged up to 4X someone younger, if you’re a woman, of course, you’ll pay more for less (and don’t forget writing 2 checks), and those free screenings will look pretty inadequate when you’re denied an expensive treatment because you’re too old as the gutting of Medicare begins.  (And that was a cliffhanger when it came to pre-existing conditions with regard to children.)

Heinrich then let’s the cat out of the bag when he says:

What’s more, our unique system of private insurance has been preserved. This reform will create a health insurance exchange of private insurance plans with comparable benefits so consumers can compare prices and benefits to find the plan that works best for them, their family, or their business.

Doesn’t that make you want to rejoice??? Yes, our wonderful, unique way of screwing people out of health care HAS BEEN PRESERVED!!!!   Yippee!

Heinrich closes with another dose of hand holding and comfort:

To some, all this reform may seem scary. Change can do that, even when it’s change for the better. As these reforms start going into effect, and we’re able to separate the reality from the rhetoric, I’m confident that you will be reassured that this reform is something that we could not afford to do without.

“Separate the reality from the rhetoric”??  We will never get the full reality from the propaganda machine until we get ensnared by one of those fine points in our insurance contracts.

Oh, yeah.  I’m so reassured.

Aren’t you?


Memo to Obots & Obot Bloggers Who Thought Obama Was a Feminist…..We Told You So…Here’s the PROOF!! UPDATE 1X– SEGREGATED! UPDATED1X Add This To the List…

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

For all of you asshats who believed the great conman back in the 2008 primaries, let me tell you that YOU are to blame for our descent into Stupakistan.

It was all laid out for you, but you bought the hype.

Only the old timer heading NOW gets it.

Seems that NARAL and Planned Parenthood (national) are still not letting go of their adored Obama, since they think he’s being “forced” by nasty conservatives to screw us with a big fat executive order at the behest of the Stupak gang.

Really?  Then how do they explain what Obama was doing back in 2008?

Maybe you’ll get it now…but I doubt it.

June 11, 2008

So, What’s Obama Going to Give Away to Conservative Religious Leaders and Constitutional Law Profs Who Work with Ken Starr??(Just Say No Deal)

June 26, 2008

Part 1: Obama’s Conservative Meeting Guests–Non-Pastors (UPDATED 1x)

June 28, 2008

Part 2: Obama’s Conservative Meeting Guests–The Pastors

July 10, 2008

Matthew 25 Network PAC Hits Christian Radio with Pro-Obama Ad as Christian Conservative Leaders Decide to Support McCain (UPDATED 1X)

UPDATE

February 11, 2009

Hidden Health Care Provisions in the “Stimulus Package”: the Ghost of Daschle Lives On and Will Haunt Us All, Especially Seniors…This is BAD NEWS!! (Link to Bill Language Here)

***

MORE

Women, more than half the population, are now SEGREGATED and now have been officially codified as being unequal by the misogynist in the White House…

I hereby direct the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop, within 180 days of the date of this Executive Order, a model set of segregation guidelines for state health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act’s segregation requirements.

From the first Black president, no less…What a complete PIECE OF SHIT!

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