Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Berkeley's Burrowing Owls in Decline; Public Art Commission to the Rescue?

My job covering outdoors and environmental news in the East Bay doesn't exactly take me to exotic locales, but it does give me an excuse to get outside and explore some of our regional and city parks. I was already familiar with the owl habitat at Berkeley's Cesar Chavez Park, near the Berkeley Marina, when I learned about this new public art installation that would serve humans, dogs, and owls alike. So I took another trip out there to meet the artists and designers, Jeff Reed and Jennifer Madden, and see their work in progress. It was a windy day, like all days at the Marina, but the sun was shining, Jeff and Jennifer were working hard, and the burrowing owls whose habitat they were protecting were somewhere hundreds of miles away, completely unaware of all the attention they were garnering on a rocky two-acre plot along the bay in Berkeley. Here's the full story.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beehive Market Is Berkeley's New Buzz

Everything you thought you knew about Berkeley was right. At least, it seems that way if you visit the newly established Beehive Market in West Berkeley. Designed as a green-lifestyle market, the weekly event offers one-stop shopping for local, sustainable, and organic produce, prepared foods, crafts, and home and garden resources -- all awash in the sounds of local music. It's a sort of small-scale utopia for shoppers who want to blend their green sensibilities with community engagement, as the market's upbeat vibe feels as much like a party as it does a shopping trip. But there's an uncertain road ahead for the Beehive; as I examine in this article for the Express, starting up a new weekly market is never easy -- especially in a town that's already home to three popular weekly farmers' markets.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

An Open Letter to the Fog

As I look out my dining room window early this Wednesday afternoon in mid-August, I see a familiar, yet no less unfortunate sight: gently rustling leaves set against a menacingly grey sky. On a mere three occasions this summer (perhaps four), I have awoken to sunlight. And I wake up at 8:30, so I'm giving you a fair chance to scram. But no -- like today, almost every day since early June, you have lingered until 11am, noon, sometimes 1pm or beyond. You've made it damn cold around here, too. I know it's trite to complain about the weather, especially something so mild and trivial as fog, but you bother me to no end.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My First Barefoot Run ... And, I'm Hooked

Went for a run this afternoon, my first in about six weeks. I intended to run to the Piedmont High track from my home in North Oakland (about 3 miles), do some barefoot laps, and run back home. Instead, I ended up doing my first legit barefoot run. And let me just say ... it, uh, kicked ass! After I finished my six or seven barefoot laps on the track, I laced my shoes back on for one final lap and the run back home. But lo and behold, my shoes felt utterly ridiculous. I could hardly run. Running barefoot around the track was so freeing, so light, so easy, while putting my shoes back on felt cumbersome, awkward, and slow. So I removed them again and took to the streets.

Calling All (and I Mean ALL!) Contractors: EPA Demands Lead-Safe Practices

This story hits pretty close to home; at the same time that I'm renovating my 1925 bungalow in Oakland, sure to contain heapings of lead and asbestos, I come across this new EPA program designed to certify contractors across the country in lead-safe practices. I haven't followed the EPA's stringent guidelines in my own renovation work, nor have I seen our contractors do so. There are no children in our house, so it's somewhat less of an issue, but still important. Lead in lead paint and dust is a health hazard to everyone. That's why the EPA is going whole-hog with this program. But some people think they're asking a bit too much in a plan that, so far at least, does just one thing really well: collect sizable fees from contractors across the country for certification, and threaten massive fines for non-compliance.