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The benefits of sunshine and mai tais

November 30, 2008 | 10:06 am


Oregon bookseller Powell's is green green green. Since 2006, it's used biodiesel in its delivery trucks; last year, it began buying clean wind power from the local power authority. And last month, it began installing 540 photovoltaic solar panels at its northwest Portland warehouse. Once complete, the solar array will provide 25% of the warehouse's power needs. And that's with 155 rainy days a year.

Sometimes it takes another person's blog to point out something you knew all along. In this case, thanks to PeteLit for reacquainting me with the L.A. Public Library's online menu collection. The interface is clunky, but if you follow directions, you can see the colorful covers and inside selection of menus going back more than 100 years. Many, but not all, are from Los Angeles restaurants. PeteLit is right, it's a great resource for authors working on historical fiction. And perusing the menus begins to reveal stories of what we value and how we talk about food; but be warned, this can lead to hunger pangs.

Hunger — or rather, satisfaction thereof — and sun combine in panel-style solar cookers, highly portable reflective-lined cardboard ovens that fold up into the size of a large book. Used in refugee camps and in areas with lots of sun but dwindling firewood supplies, solar cookers are lauded as being affordable, effective and convenient. LAist talks to a representative from the Jewish World Watch solar cooker project, one of many NGOs promoting the use of solar cookers around the world.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Quon Brothers cocktail menu, undated, from the Los Angeles Public Library's menu collection.