Pandodyssey™ Panda Blog

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

Friday, July 28, 2006

pedal power part deux

Now THIS is reason to have children! (yah, git!) I wonder how many kids it would take to power the A/C in my house (which has been running full blast since May of this summer, this blistering, gross, humid, sticky, yet FLOODED, mosquito-plagued summer!)

Weekend Mongol Rally panda fix update:

Team Monkey Tank Crossed the Bosporus into Asia. With Arnold, a 5-foot monkey! A toy. I think,

Team Snailracer In Russia. Somewhere. (major cool points for driving this solo!)

You can track any team's progress on a map, powered by Google (of course) by clicking on the "Team Progress" link. I have linked above Team pandarama, as they are the (un)-official pandodyssey (tm) team mascot solely by similarity of name.

go little pandas, go!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

California, here I come!

One of my biggest fears about living in CA are the rolling blackouts. The threat of a massive quake dropping the state into the pacific ocean doesn't scare me, but threat of a lack of hot shower sure does!!

Now, a solution! It's actually quite an old solution, but new to me: pedal power! Here's an excerpt from the lengthier Jan. 8, 2001 article, courtesy of Hugh Bris:

" If you want to watch TV or run the blender in the funky old eco-house overlooking the campus here, you'd better be ready to ride. A bicycle, that is.

Going nowhere.

Unless, of course, you call riding to lunch "somewhere" -- which is where Sean Dockery pedaled himself to the other day when he got a hankering for salad dressing. He plucked herbs from the garden, dumped them in the Osterizer with oil and tahini, then jumped on his souped-up bike.

The pedals spun the wheel that spun the rod that twirled the blender blades,
and in a minute, voila! Salad dressing. The machine was homemade low-tech like most everything else in this house, from the solar-paneled light fixture overhead to the next-door greenhouse that pumped in hot air to keep Dockery toasty on his quick ride to lunch.
That's how things are in what may be the most energy-efficient home of its kind in the nation -- a 1930s-era, 10-room wooden house that uses so little energy, its power bill typically is about $10 a month.

The house, officially called the Humboldt State University Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT), was lovingly converted by students on a shoestring budget 21 years ago to be a living experiment in energy conservation. It's still run by students, and everything is still shoestring and invented on the spot.

And although the pedal gizmos can come off a bit wacky, this continuing research project has a lot to show more conventional residents about how to conserve energy -- especially when power prices are shooting through the roof, whether you've insulated it or not.

"The goal here is to use as little nonrenewable energy and resources as humanly possible and to educate people while we're doing it," said Dockery, a 22-year-old environmental science senior who is one of the three students living at the house. "Some people might get a laugh out of the bike thing or the dry compost toilet, but this is very serious stuff going on here. We're not kidding around. The house is vibrant proof that sometimes the best way to look forward is to reach backward."

So now that we've got a solution to my rolling blackouts issue, what about my water quality issue (my other huge fear of living in CA):

"An environmental study conducted by researchers at UCLA and Stanford has found that nearly 1.5 million beach visitors in southern California get sick every year from bacterial pollution, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The study analyzed the number of cases of gastrointestinal illnesses of beachgoers along a 100-mile stretch of coastline between Los Angeles County and Orange County. Cases of illness were between 627,800 and 1,479,200 higher than baseline levels. Typical symptoms included stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting in addition to ear, eye, nose, and throat infections. Those illnesses have been associated to high levels of bacterial pollution in the water. The study found that water quality tests indicated that levels of the Enterococci bacteria surpassed state safety levels one third of the time for the beaches at Doheny, Malibu, Marina del Rey, Cabrillo, and Las Tunas."

I don't think any amount of pedaling is going to fix this. This angers me -- not because I am a citizen with enviromental concerns -- it angers me because I'm an avid beach-goer who spends an inordinate amount of time upside-down in seawater, being pummeled to near death as I attempt in vain (yet again) to learn to stand on a surfboard. I just didn't think that I would ever need to worry about contracting water-borne dysentery-like diseases WITHIN the US. But maybe that's just me. >:0

Hey southern Californians, are your health insurance premiums paid up??

Where's Waldo?

Here at the Mongol Rally home page, you can find text messages from teams to Rally HQ, from the long and winding road to Ulaan Batur. How are some of our (fiat) panda friends faring so far?? - "interesting detour in Poland. Heading for Ukraine now. Trailer and us parted company."

Mongol Rally Madness - "pid77: can some one tell me if this works on the map? In romania about 300 km west of moldova. Roads a bit Shit. Cars well but bank cards not working. J and s;"

Mongol Mary - "Broke down in the middle of latvia with a suspect gearbox leak at midnight. Excellent. Who needs oil when you've got hopes and dreams. :-(; "

Slikroute SLI - "Just about to head for romania. We havent used a map so far but have taken photos of one. On the run from hungary- parking fines!"

Click here for images from the start of the race.

go little pandas, go!!

Monday, July 24, 2006

bonjour and arrivederci!

Panda swims Channel shock!
He made it! When we last checked in last week, the Panda Terramare 4 was teetering on the verge of infamy, and poised to sail/swim/sputter all the way across the English Channel to France. It took a little over 6 hours but both man and machine landed safely on the shores of Cap Griz Nez.

The Environmental Paradox of Bicycling
This is a paper (still in the works from the looks of it) from a student out of Big Named Business School, arguing that encouraging cycling as an proactive environmental measure could be MORE harmful to the environment in the long run because (follow this logic now): cycling leads to better health, better health leads to longer lives, longer lives leads to a larger impact on the environment.

It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. We humans are living longer than ever, and three times longer than our most recent evolutionary ancestors. This scholar does take into account that factor and reconciles it with his argument: "Those who adopt the bicycle as a means of transportation could potentially develop an increased awareness of the environmental impact of their actions and may over their lifetimes reduce energy consumption substantially in their other, non-transportation activities."

Friday, July 21, 2006


Panda in Cross-Channel swim shock!

Tomorrow morning, weather permitting, at around 8.30am, (Friday 21 July), a new breed of nautical Panda will be clambering into the sea at Folkestone, Kent; not merely to escape our heatwave by cooling off in the water, but with every intention of reaching the French coast and then driving all the way home to Italy!This Panda’s creator is Milan born Maurizio Zanisi, an independent former Iso Rivolta engineer, and his self-built Panda Terramare 4 is based on a Panda 4x4 chassis, but with an inflatable flotation belt, and waterjet propulsion driven off the rear axle.Panda Terramare 4 is no stranger to water, and it has already been spotted frolicking in the great Italian lakes, (Como and Maggiore), the River Po, and the Mediterranean off Sardinia. Its longest sea journey to date has been a return trip from Naples to Capri – a journey of some 25 miles. The Channel, however, will be its greatest test to date.

a swimming panda! If you'd like to see what a floating fiat panda looks like, there are a couple of photos of the amusing barely-seaworthy vessel at the link above.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

got veto?

In First Veto, Bush Blocks Stem Cell Bill
President Bush today used the first veto of his presidency to stop legislation that would have lifted restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research.

"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush, speaking at the White House, said after he followed through on his promise to veto the bill. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it."

I am not a s-m-r-t pandologist but my moral boundary feels just peachy about conducting research on cells from frozen embryos (they can't really be defrosted and turned into little boys and girls can they?) that are just going to be destroyed otherwise.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just what the pandologist ordered

I leave town for four days (post on this later) and return to find Indonesia underwater again, and Israel bombs Lebanon. (Oh yeah and the President swore, woop-dee-diddly-doo, with his mouth FULL of food, FAR more egregious than the potty mouth! He also addressed the Prime Minister of England as "Yo, Blair" but that's just funny!)

Here's some news that I find happy or funny, or at least distracting enough from the depressing stuff.

UNSECO adds Pandas to World Heritage Site List
The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) convened last week in Vilnius, Lithuania to discuss additions to the World Heritage Site List. In China, the panda reserve in the Sichuan Province was named to the list,due to the giant panda's status as an edandered species and the reserve's role in protecting and replenishing the species.
*gratuitous cute panda photo at the above link-we love national geographic photogs!*

Ladies, start your engine!
Two English women and the fiat panda they adopted from eBay, set sail for Outer Mongolia this coming Saturday, as the 2006 Mongol Rally gets underway! Five weeks of treacherous terrains, hostile road conditions, and 190 bangers (that's English for sh*tmobile, I think), all of which are guaranteed to break down at some point over the 8,000 mile journey, sputtering their way toward Ulaan Baatur.

BTW, the two women, Glaswegian Lorraine Hutchison, 26, and Sussex(ian?) Nina Rooke, 32, have no experience with vehicular maintenance whatsoever, and have planned a dangerous route winding through Afghanistan, Iraq and Uzebekistan. Check out some of the routes here. Ladies, you are my American Idols!

Cool images from space
umm, it's just cool that's all. One of Super E's coworkers sent him a link to this site who forwarded it to me and now I've bookmarked it. Thief compensates victim for stolen bikeno explanation needed!that's all for now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

and yet i still don't heart pearl jam

So what if they are/(were??)/are still one of the most influential rock bands in the history of music?

And so what if they did help along the "grunge" movement and revolutionized rock AND/OR roll as we know it today?

AND SO WHAT if I am guilty of having faked liking them for years, while wearing shredded flannel (yes, over a mod-black dress, mod-black tights and mod-black-mary janes) in a misguided effort to simultaneously look cool and rebellious? Those were troubled times indeed.

pearl jam. They sued Ticketmaster. They're anti-Bush. They've promoted both John Kerry and Ralph Nader! Parts of them used to tour as a band called 'Mookie Blaylock', a hilarious name for either a band Or a basketball player. There isn't anything about pearl jam I shouldn't NOT love.

Now, even more reason to love them/hate them: the band tracks their carbon emissions from tours and then PAYS IT BACK! They are donating $100K to Seattle-based environmental organizations to offest the environmental damage their tours have done.

Guitarist Stone Gossard said the group has been tracking its carbon emissions from vehicles used on tour and energy used in concert venues and hotels to estimate the band's contribution to global warming."We can get a really relatively accurate picture of what that looks like over a year, and it's a considerable amount of carbon," Gossard told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in a backstage interview at a concert in Los Angeles. "We emitted about 5,000 tons of carbon on our last tour."

Admirable stuff from an admirable band (even if you never liked grunge).

Go South Pacific Young Pandologist!

Where is the happiest place on Earth, if one could possibly measure such a thing? Hint, it's not in the US (Southern California is SO 10 minutes ago). According to a new index from the New Economics Foundation studying 178 nations, the happiest place on Earth is (drum roll...) Vanuatu (aka "the islands of fire" to any self-respecting realtiy tv fan), in the South Pacific. Most interesting are the factors used to measure "happy":

The innovative global measure of progress, the Happy Planet Index, has been constructed by the New Economics Foundation (Nef) and Friends of the Earth using three factors: life expectancy, human wellbeing and damage done via a country's "environmental footprint".

The Happy Planet Index essentially divides the damage we do environmentally by the payback through life expectancy and satisfaction. No country does well on all three indicators but the survey shows that people can live long, fulfilled lives without using more than their fair share of the earth's resources, says the foundation.

Vanuatu comes top because its people are satisfied with their lot, live to nearly 70 and do little damage to the planet. Zimbabwe takes bottom place in the table. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Colombia, countries that have experienced recent civil upheavals, all feature in the top 10 on the grounds that they do little environmental harm and manage comparatively high levels of satisfaction with life.

Using these factors then, it comes as no surprise that most of the industrialized nations didn't fare too well. The UK came in 108th (why yes that would be behind Libya, Gabon and Azerbaijan). The United States placed a lowly 150th and Russia claims the 172 spot.

It's an interesting and colorful read. Find more info on the NEF here, or find the Happy Index here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On the 367th day in the Year of the Stick!

[This is a post i never got around to posting. i think i got a little frustrated. it's forced sounding. but gratuitous cute panda photos ought not go unposted.]

Seems The Stick had a pretty good birthday, complete with the cake-shaped fruitsicle and a party inviting...anyone! Don't ask! I had to unplug both machines and keep 'em separated till their batteries died.

China panda born to be wild, coping well.
Remember Xiang Xiang, the four-year-old male that was recently released into the wild? Researchers have checked in on him. Apparently, nobody should worry because he's doing fine.