Thursday, January 28, 2010

"We could all use some magic..."Rebekah Pulley in Sem Heights Last Night

Photo courtesy of our awesome Sem Heights Photographer Nicole "Elawgrrl" Kibert

Last night I cut through the alley behind our house and headed over to the Front Porch to listen to one of Tampa's best local singer/songwriters Rebekah Pulley. When I saw the sign on the Front Porch announcing she would be there a few days before, I couldn't believe it at first. I've seen her a few times, and Amy knows I have a bit of a celebrity crush on her, but I never expected her to play within view of my house. I won't talk about those daydreams of her playing the guitar at one of our cookouts on our porch, but for now this was close enough.

When I got to the Front Porch, she was tucked into the bar area against a far wall. She was strumming away on John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" apparently via request although she did a great job of it. She followed that with an original and one of her best "I Should Have Left You A Long Time Ago." I settled in and decided on a Guinness - the only beer that's never let me down - and marvelled at the number of open seats in the place. It was actually pretty darn empty although I don't think it was advertised more than the sign out front. As she moved through some of her new material which she would perform unapologetically with a cheat sheet on her knee, she definitely made fans of the dozen or so of us there.

During one of her breaks, I didn't have to work hard to get a chance to talk with her. She was chatting with one of the regulars and joking about the pitiful condition of her performance costume which consisted of a well worn plaid skirt, a black tee, and some brown converse that had seen a lot miles. We started talking about the little known fact that she is originally from Alaska and how she even lived in my old stomping ground of East Texas. I was trying to remember that song about Anchorage when she chimed in that it was one of her favorites (Anchored in Anchorage - Michelle Shocked) and she started off the next set with it.

I felt really lucky to get a chance to see her in such close quarters. As the the dozen or so in the bar became four lucky holdouts, the show became much more like a group of friends talking back and forth and requesting cover songs she knew such as"I Shall Be Released" and favorites of hers that I wanted to hear like "New Mexico". She even gave her best effort at Joni Mitchell's "River" which the guy next to me, Don offered up. I felt a little disappointed in our neighborhood for the small turnout, but selfishly, it couldn't have been a better evening for a reformed concert junkie like me. Seeing a band or singer that you love in an intimate venue can spoil you from ever paying $75 to crowd into an arena. If you haven't seen her or heard Rebekah play, what are you waiting for? She might even be playing in your neighborhood this week. With all of the fluff and inflated pop stars taking the spotlight these days, it is encouraging to meet a singer who is as real and genuine in person as she sounds behind the microphone.

-Charles H
Here's a video of her and links to her website and a spot to listen to more of her music...

Monday, January 25, 2010

The work continues at the shop...

We've got the big stuff moved and most of the painting done. If you drive by, you'll even see the windows looking a lot more inviting. Here's a teaser of the window display from inside. We should be open starting the first week of February - That's next week!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Design Revolution Author Emily Pilloton on Colbert

Here's one of our favorite designers on the Colbert Report talking about design for humanitarian causes. She is championing designs like the Hippo Roller for water transport in rural areas that she demonstrates on the video. She is currently touring the US in a super-modified Airstream that is doubling as a design gallery for ground-breaking product design.

Enjoy a fun talk here with Colbert...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Emily Pilloton
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Check out the latest info on the design road show here - including things like the rocket stove I talked about earlier this month.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Making a difference with outdoor solar lights

A Florida company that manufactures solar lights, such as large parking lot and outdoor street lights is working to help in Haiti. They are donating lights to help with the relief effort that can be used in hospital areas and to help increase hours for aid.

It seems like such an obvious idea - why do outdoor lights not get power from solar? In practice it's not as easy as it sounds. You need lights you can count on and they need to be really bright to help. Consistency is not the strong suit of mother nature. The other outdoor lighting issues include rain, high winds, and sun damage. I even had ants move into the battery pack on my solar flood light experiment last year.

Sol is an innovative company in Palm City, FL that has been working on commercial solar lighting since 1990 and seems to have a good handle on what it takes. They use the location of where the lights will be used as a determining factor in the type of light. Strong winds and rain require the Tropical Storm Light model and that is what they are shipping to Haiti. You can read more about these at Treehugger and in the NY Times.
PS - Thanks to everyone that gave to WMNF for Haiti - the last tally I heard was right at $100,000 in one day!

Friday, January 15, 2010

7000 Buried in Mass Grave...

That's the statement that woke me this morning when my alarm clock came on. 7000. This is just the start of many tallies I'm sure, but the snooze button didn't have any effect after that. As I got in the car to head to work I could hear that WMNF 88.5 was already up early and raising money for Haiti. Instead of letting the helpless feelings overtake us, I am so proud to see our community radio station making it possible to give to important aid efforts. They've gone to great lengths to find four organizations that are currently operating in Haiti with low overhead and big impacts. If you have some time today please give them a call to donate whatever you can. You can pledge online which is extremely easy at They are running this relief effort today from 6am to 4 pm.

All donations made during this fund drive will be split between:
Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti
Doctors Without Borders
Partners in Health
Mercy Corps

WMNF Press Release
WMNF Community Radio to Hold Emergency Fundraiser for Haiti Relief Organizations
(Tampa) WMNF Community Radio 88.5fm is going on the air from 6am until 4pm Friday, January 15th to raise funds for organizations providing relief to survivors of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti this week.
WMNF is trying to raise as much money as possible, and will split the funds evenly between four organizations: Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti, Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and Mercy Corps. WMNF will receive no proceeds as a result of the funds raised. 100% of the contributions will go to these relief groups.
WMNF News Director Rob Lorei says 88.5fm listeners are very generous and have helped out in other such efforts.
“WMNF listeners are very community-minded and they’ve been telling us about their deep concern for the people of Haiti. In the past, when we raised funds for the victims of Katrina, we raised a lot of money for relief. There’s no telling how this will turn out- given our economic problems here at home- but my guess is that they will come through in a big way,” said Lorei.
In 2005, WMNF held a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims. As it is doing this time, the FCC lifted a ban on fundraising for other non-profit organizations so that public and community radio stations could hold special on-air pledge drives.
In one day, WMNF raised $132,000 that was split evenly among four non-profits. Our members thanked us time after time that day for putting their money toward trust-worthy non-profits to rebuild the areas and lives ravaged by Katrina.
Now, WMNF is trying to do the same for victims of the Haiti earthquake. Many are wondering how to help and to which organization to give. WMNF is here as a conduit for the community.
For more information, please contact Station Manager Jim Bennett at (813)238-8001 or

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

If you need something...

The other thing that big box stores won't do for their neighborhood is to answer the phone after hours. If you need something while we are closed this month, please let us know! We are doing a lot of shopping and also are happy to unload any of the old stock in the shop if you want to meet us there. Drop us an email and we'll set up a time to meet. You might just need a birthday card or hostess gift at the last minute...

Tampa Street Market Rumors

If you drive up Florida Ave on your way home from work, you might have seen the paper covering the windows on our shop this week. We have got the rumor mill churning in our little neighborhood.

#1 Tampa Street Market is housing homeless refugees during the cold spell.

#2 TSM is going out of businees due to intense competition in the neighborhood.

#3 TSM is under repair due to fire-bombing during the contentious OSHNA elections.

#4 TSM is being renovated to house Conan O'Brian's new Tonight Show in Tampa.

#5 The shop doesn't have a heater and burning trash barrels might scare off customers.

#1 No, but it wouldn't be a bad idea if only we had a heater - driving by that big tent at Metropolitan Ministries I wonder how many people go there to get out of the cold.

#2 No, and unfortunately a lot of our competition comes from big boxes like Target and Crate and Barrel that happily price out local stores through outsourcing labor to places that pay their workers pennies a day to turn out disposable junk. (yeah I said it)

#3 No, but if I am definitely over our ridiculous association infighting. This is an awesome neighborhood! It is ruining our reputation and pushing people away from a great neighborhood.

#4 I wish, that poor guy is getting squeezed out by Leno's big chin and tired jokes. I can barely make it to 11:30 so forget it if your show gets pushed after midnight.

#5 This is the truth. Our landlord even said "Nobody ever complained about the heat before." and encouraged us to shell out our last dimes for the ten or so space heaters it would take to warm our place up. Sorry, we'll just have to close down and the place could use some sprucing up anyway. We are looking for new stuff and building pieces so that the shop will be fresh when the cold finally thaws. Christmas takes its toll on the store and we feel it is important to bring our best work out for customers.

We will re-open in a few weeks and maybe even have a little post New Year bash to celebrate it. Keep an eye out for it. Also, we are trying to entice some of our city's interesting folk artists and crafters to help us get through the year by renting space and/or working days for us. If you are interested in being a part of the best shop in Seminole Heights then drop us an email -


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year, New Perspective

Photo courtesy of Envirofit

Last year was a difficult year in business and we often thought about just giving up. However, when we visited Ethiopia last year, we gained a little perspective on what a difficult year really could be. When our economy tanks, we do things like cut out the cable and gym memberships. When the economy goes bad in Ethiopia, people go without food or fuel for cooking the food. We saw what a lot of people see there - women whose backs were bent with the weight of carrying firewood. Firewood is used for cooking and every night, we could look out on the city of Addis Ababa and see dozens of fires burning. These fires boil water and cook injera bread which consumes the majority of a woman's day. If you could give some of that time back and some of the money spent on firewood to those women, would you? What I read about today is the competition for building a clean burning and efficient open fire stove for developing countries. There are some interesting videos on the web about companies like Stove Tec and Envirofit.
Photo courtesy of Stove Tec

They are building stoves that are made out of steel and clay that are inexpensive and clean. These can reduce cook times by 30-50% and emissions as much as 50-75%. The emissions from cooking with an open fired stove far exceed the emissions from a car and are especially harmful to humans because of the black soot produced. These companies are working to not only help provide for a need in the developing world, but also to help them save our world's environment as well. Most have little idea of the damage that these fires do their families' health much less to our planet.

This year we are going to try and keep focused on the big picture and what we can really do to help. If buying a $40 stove to help a family in need in a developing country can save more emissions than buying a $20K hybrid then it's definitely time to start looking at this year's opportunities in a new way.