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Take a visit to the “The Island” blog

For those who haven’t already made a habit it of it, there’s lots of good Alameda info coming out of The Island, a blog run by Michele Ellson, a former print reporter gone Internet (though she’s got a piece on current golf course developments in Tuesday’s Journal).

Recent posts include one about Knife Catchers, a biting little blog offering running snarky commentary on Alameda real estate. Another gives voice to the news that maybe, just maybe Clif Bar, will settle in town.

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Alameda’s Nutcracker: Auditions in September

For the last three years, under the direction of Abra Rudisill, the Alameda Civic Ballet has put on a marvelous performance of the classic holiday show, The Nutcracker. As a young member of the dance school, my daughter has very much enjoyed the opportunity to dance and perform with a full range of dancers, from preschool to professional. “It feels so magical just to be there,” says my daughter. “It’s amazing because there’s so many rehearsals and so much work, and then you’re on stage. It’s so fun!” For those wishing to be a part of this year’s show—or to have their daughters and sons be a part—auditions will be on September 20th and 21st in the company’s Park Street studio. This year’s performances will be on Saturday, December 20, and Sunday, December 21. [The dancers pictured above are Cameron Beene, Peyton Hill and Zaria Zinn. Photo thanks to Austin Forboard, Rapt Productions.]

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Going green with goats

As I wrote in my Life on the Island column a few weeks ago, I am not a fan of leaf blowers: they’re loud, disruptive, and blow teeny-tiny particles of dust all over the place. All the better to trigger the asthma and jangle the nerves! It sounds like Los Angeles is going about some of its business without using polluting, gas-powered engines. They recently hired a herd of goats (with tenders) to clear a vacant lot slated for redevelopment. According to the article, “100 goats turned loose on a downtown L.A. plot,” the goats cost about half what people wielding machines would have. East Bay fire officials have long used goats (and, too, sheep) to clear dry brush that would be a fire hazard, as have many other cities and private companies.

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Looking to November: Alameda council candidates

Over at Alamedans you can read up on the four candidates for Alameda’s City Council—Tracy Jensen, Justin Harrison, Marie Gilmore and Doug deHaan. Tracy Jensen and Justin Harrison have their own campaign web sites, while the two incumbents, Doug deHaan and Marie Gilmore don’t seem to (if I’ve somehow missed their sites, please let me know). Alameda’s League of Women Voters is sponsoring two forums where you can meet the council candidates. The first will be on Thursday, October 9, at 6:45 p.m. at Cardinal Point and the second on Thursday, October 30 at the Mastick Senior Center. And I would, of course, urge each and every one of you to attend one of those forums and put a face and voice and person to the name. All the better to make a solid choice in the voting booth.

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This week’s Life on the Island: Driving less!

So this week’s column (it came out in the Alameda Journal on Tuesday) is about my family’s experiment with living without a car. An interesting—and surprising—side effect of this approach to getting around (we’re on day 35 of the challenge) is that instead of making the Island seem bigger and harder to navigate (as I expected) it’s actually making it seem smaller. Trips that I had in my mind that I needed a car for—like going to South Shore, or Park Street or various friends’ houses—I find are quite quick and easy to make by bike or by foot. And often, once I get over the hump of getting my bike out of the garage, making sure I have my lock, and getting the kids all helmeted up, the trips are more pleasant than they used to be by car.


Past “Life on the Island” columns
August 25, 2008: Lessons learning on vacation
August 4, 2008: Leaf blowers, no!
July 29, 2008: Backyard wells and conserving water
July 22, 2008: Out and about on a home-town date
July 15, 2008: Changes in school leadership offers new opportunities
July 8, 2008: Getting an education in civics Continue Reading

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Guerrilla gardening: pathways to Alameda

For those of you who ever happen to come on or off the Island by way of the Fruitvale Bridge, perhaps driving or walking or cycling from the BART station, you know that the particular stretch of road is one of the most homely anywhere: chain link fences, wind blown trash, run-down buildings, weeds in concrete. A few days back, my trusty research assistant noted a man on a bike watering a lone plant on the median strip right near the bridge on the Oakland side. And I myself have noted these petunias, set against a backdrop of concrete, being tended on the east side of Fruitvale Avenue, between the train tracks and the 880 underpass. Guerrilla gardening, the cultivation of neglected public spaces by energetic individuals, is not a new concept, but it’s nice to see a little sprig of color where none had been before. Is anyone aware of any on-Island guerilla gardens?

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Solar permits in Alameda?

There’s an article in the current East Bay Express about solar in Alameda. The headline, “Less Than Light Speed,” and much of the story takes what seems to be the greater-Bay-Area’s default stance toward Alameda: Alameda is backwards. Though, if you read the whole article, it sounds like city departments—after a solar contractor complained about turn-around times for permits at an Alameda Power & Telecom board meeting in July—are actually working hard to streamline the process: the city responded by coming up with a plan to issue solar permits within five days.

I did learn (if the Express reporter got it right) that Alameda Power & Telecom, as an independent utility, didn’t have (as other California cities have had since 2001) a state-funded consumer rebate program, until a new law, “Million Solar Roofs,” went into effect at the beginning of this year.

And for those of you interested in alternative sources of power, you might enjoy reading about this gym or this bike.