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Apr 27th
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The Ticker

Watsonville Awarded Healthy Communities Grant

Thirty-six percent of Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s fifth, seventh and ninth graders are overweight or obese, according to the California Healthy Kids Survey. The Go For Health! Collaborative, an effort of United Way of Santa Cruz County, has just been awarded a $360,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to address the health problems amongst youth in the Watsonville/Pajaro Valley area. Forty-one places across the country were selected as recipients of the grant as part of the foundation’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative. Go For Health! plans to put the money to work increasing opportunities for physical activity and access to healthier foods—like the copious fruits and vegetables being grown in neighboring fields.

The Ticker

UCSC Professor Tackles Time-Telling with Kid Klok

UCSC Professor Tackles Time-Telling with Kid KlokUC Santa Cruz cognitive psychology professor Dr. Dominic Massaro may be known for his “fuzzy logical” model of perception, his creation of Baldi, the computer animated talking head who can serve as a language tutor, and his formulation of various language learning products. But lately, Massaro has been revolutionizing the way kids learn to tell time.

While helping out in his son’s second grade classroom, Massaro observed some of the common errors children make while trying to tell time from an analog clock, such as reversing the hands or mistaking the Roman numeral II (meaning 10 minutes past the hour) as meaning two minutes past the hour. Armed with these observations and his knowledge of cognitive psychology, as well as the goal of making analog clock time-telling easy to learn, Massaro came up with the Kid Klock.
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The Ticker

Voters Fight to Protect Local Services

Governor Schwarzenegger and the State Legislature are looking to take even more money from local governments this year (after taking controversial portions in 2009), but many Monterey Bay residents won't stand for it. The state government, politically unable to raise taxes, feels it is out of options with California's current budget deficit at about $20 billion dollars over the next 18 months. Trying to salvage valuable services, the Monterey Bay Division of the League of California Cities has announced a campaign to support a state-wide measure that would protect local services, and is shooting for it to be on ballots this November. They are currently gathering signatures and fear that any more cuts to local services would be disastrous for many institutions, including police, the fire department, and Transportation.

The Ticker

Housing Authority Looks to Cut Water Waste

The Housing Authority of Santa Cruz is looking for new ways to fight an old problem. The group has announced that it is installing water meters in 213 rental units in 13 housing complexes that it operates between Santa Cruz and Watsonville.  Executive Director Ken Cole listened to suggestions that locals cut water usage by 15 percent, but expects the procedure to cut water usage by as much as 20 percent. The meters, which were paid for by last year's economic stimulus package, will not only make tenants more aware of their own water usage but also allow authorities to detect possible leaks.
The Ticker

The Pink Umbrella Councilman?

One notorious Santa Cruzan is vying to snag one of three seats that will open up on the Santa Cruz City Council in November (those currently held by Mayor Mike Rotkin, Cynthia Mathews and Lynn Robinson): Robert Steffen, perhaps better known as “The Pink Umbrella Man,” has shed his infamous pink garb and announced his candidacy. It’s a little premature, but with such a quintessential Santa Cruz character already in the mix and more to surely follow, let the race begin!

Staycation

The Orchard Garden Hotel

The Orchard Garden Hotel

San Francisco’s chic green boutique
I love to travel (who doesn’t?), but I’m also pinching pennies (who isn’t?) and I am increasingly conscious of the carbon footprint I leave behind when embarking on my beloved adventures (who can’t be?).

In light of these facts, but unwilling to twiddle my thumbs at home every weekend, I set out to have a swell staycation (read: a vacation at home, or in your area; a trend that’s growing as the recession toils on) with an environmentally friendly twist. So, one weekend just before Thanksgiving, I found myself at The Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco—a boutique hotel that completely breaks the mold. Their tagline, “At our hotel, boutique doesn’t mean small,” is right on: the hotel towers beside the Chinatown gate on Bush Street, just above Union Square, and has a grand total of 86 rooms. With rates ranging from $169 to $369 a night, the hotel offers snazzy “green” accommodations for a reasonable amount.

Ours was a Standard King on the 9th floor, a large room with copious amenities. In addition to the insanely comfy bed, oversized work desk and enormous flat screen TV, there were soft robes and slippers, all organic, natural toiletries (I’ve almost used them all up, and want to go buy more from the brand, EO, a CCOF certified company in Marin), and sparkling water, chocolates and wildflower seeds waiting for us. Large glass doors led out onto a nice deck with sun chairs and a patio table that overlooked the bustling street below and the skyline of the city. We arrived at sunset, and were able to watch as a pink and orange blanket of sky sunk over the rooftops of San Francisco. The bathroom was large and simple, with a powerful overhead shower to remember.

Most notable were the energy-efficient aspects of our lovely, temporary dwelling. Each guest’s key card also serves as an energy control system; upon entering one’s room, you merely stick your key in a small box beside the door and then turn on lights as you please. Take your key with you when you leave, and the lights go out. As one of California’s first hotels to be built according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) stipulations, the Orchard Garden also uses chemical-free cleaning products, natural lighting for its lobby, soy-based inks, recycled paper and maintains a 100 percent tobacco free environment.

Between the chill and drizzle outside and the enthralling coziness of our room, we were tempted to never leave it. However, we did manage to mosey back to the lobby floor for our reservation at the hotel’s award winning organic restaurant, Roots. San Francisco Weekly bestowed it the honor of the 2009 Best Organic Restaurant in San Francisco, and we soon learned why: not only was the staff friendly, attentive and charmingly quirky, the food was truly decadent. The menu boasts of entrees like monkfish, flat iron steak and smoked trout salad (all naturally raised meat and sustainably caught seafood), but, as two vegans, we bypassed the carnage and, instead, were treated to an off-the-menu vegetarian feast.

The chef, Jason, was testing out his vegetarian Thanksgiving options and we were happy to be the guinea pigs. The long and adventurous meal began with Natura water (the result of an in-house water filtering system that produces “the cleanest water in the country”) and oven-warmed bread. Next was an arugula and fennel salad with toasted walnuts and cranberries, followed by a vegan tamale pie that Jason based on his Grandmother’s recipe from the depression era (he gracefully transformed her meaty, canned goods meal to a vegetarian delight with organic, local heirloom beans, red peppers, Chanterelle mushrooms and vegan cornbread). We were stuffed by the time the gluten-free butternut squash risotto came, but did our best to take advantage of the delicious dish that was so creamy you’d never know it was dairy-free.

By this point we were brimming over with satisfaction—we’d also indulged in two interesting cocktails, the Zentini ($12), a blend of organic green tea liqueur and vodka, and (my favorite) the Roots Buzz (also $12), which fused Vive Acai Liqueur, organic agave, and caffeinated Blue Lotus Vodka. But when they brought out the house-made pure pear sorbet, we managed to find a little extra room. “It’s like a fresh pear melting in my mouth,” said my impressed companion, drool pooling at the corners of his mouth. “I think I’m having a peargasm.”

I left the hotel the next morning feeling refreshed and pampered, which is a hard thing to come by when traveling on a budget. And not only had I experienced a genuinely zen, luxurious night away from home, I felt as if I’d given a nod to my good friend Mother Earth in the process. Essentially, for the eco-minded vacationer, the Orchard Garden allows you to take your values with you when you travel. Affordable, just over the hill, posh, and as green as they get, this Downtown San Francisco gem is perfect for your next staycation getaway.

The Ticker

Santa Cruz Reduces Emissions

The city of Santa Cruz has successfully reduced its green house gas (GHG) emissions to 8 percent below levels in 1996. Residential homes showed the largest reduction in GHG emissions with a 29 percent reduction since 1996. The key actions responsible for this impressive decrease include purchasing efficient appliances and lights, installation of an estimated 2,170 kW residential solar photovoltaic panels, and conscientious lifestyle choices.
The Ticker

Goodbye Sloppy Joe, Hello Granny Smith

On Wednesday, Dec. 15, Congressman Sam Farr introduced legislation that would greatly increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in our country's cafeterias. The legislation, the Children's Fruit and Vegetable Act (H.R. 4333), includes provisions to increase USDA spending on fruits, vegetables, and overall cafeteria infrastructure by more than $100 million over the next few years to promote health and combat childhood obesity. The proposed legislation also has a focus on promoting local foods via a farm-to-cafeteria program ($10 million per year for two years) which could simultaneously increase health and stimulate local economies.

The Ticker

Goodbye Sloppy Joe, Hello Granny Smith

In Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 15, Congressman Sam Farr (D-Carmel) introduced legislation that would greatly increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in our country's cafeterias. The legislation, the Children's Fruit and Vegetable Act (H.R. 4333), includes provisions to increase USDA spending on fruits, vegetables, and overall cafeteria infrastructure by more than $100 million over the next few years to promote health and combat childhood obesity. The proposed legislation also has a focus on promoting local foods via a farm-to-cafeteria program ($10 million/year for two years) which could simultaneously increase health and stimulate local economies. "The federal government talks about the food pyramid and healthy eating, then spends billions on unhealthy food," said Congressman Farr after introducing the bill. "It's time we put our money where our mouth is and address the poor quality of food in our schools."

CultureBeat

For the Fan Who Has Everything

For the Fan Who Has Everything

Christmas time is here again and for anyone faced with the daunting task of figuring out that perfect gift for their comic reading loved one, I've put together a small list of some of this year's hottest items. From DVD gift sets to the most recent video game releases, there are plenty of ways for comic nerds to get their superhero fix.

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We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
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Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise