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Three Cups of Tea Fundraiser Back by Popular Demand

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La Vida Local

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (January, 2010) -- Moved by the community response to their inaugural tea cup fundraiser last February, Santa Cruz artists Steven and Bonnie Barisof are planning a second annual event on February 11 at the Rio Theatre. Inspired by Greg Mortenson's bestselling memoir, Three Cups of Tea, the event raises money for Mortenson's Central Asia Institute to help build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"If you educate a girl, you educate a community,” Mortenson writes in his new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The better educated a woman is, the less likely she will be to let her children join the Taliban…Their greatest fear is not the bullet, but the pen.” Or in this case, the potter’s wheel!

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The Secret Series - Alchemy, Murder and Snarky Laughs For Pre-Teens (and Their Parents)

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Arts and Review

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ ( January 2010) – The title of the first book in the Secret Series is … well … a secret. So is the identity of the author, the town where the story takes place, and even the names of the heroes.
The first page of book one warns readers to go no further, and hints at the dire consequences of doing so. But the warnings are so overblown, the writing so funny, and the artwork so off-kilter, that you keep laughing and turning pages, despite the prickle of unease creeping up the back of your neck.
The Secret Series, now three books and counting, may not appeal to young children. But it is precisely on-target for the skeptical pre-teen reader who pounces on inconsistency, delivers dead-on parodies of television infomercials, and can sniff out adult hypocrisy at twenty paces. That is to say, most middle schoolers will love these books.

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Cat Waste Can Pose A Garden Hazard

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (January 2010) - Organic gardeners know that many types of manure are good for garden soil. We add cow, horse, chicken and even bat manure to our yards, knowing that the breakdown of these products feeds both the soil and the vegetables in our gardens.
Cat manure, on the other hand, should never be added to garden compost or left to decompose in vegetable beds. Cat feces frequently carry parasites that can infect humans, and should be excluded from the garden or removed as promptly as possible.
It is commonly known that pregnant women should avoid cat waste to prevent infection with Toxoplasmosis, a disease that can cause devastating birth defects if contracted during gestation. But Toxoplasmosis, and other diseases spread by cat waste, can infect anyone who comes into contact with contaminated garden soil, and gardeners should take precautions to avoid a possible lifelong infection.

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Banish Cats From Your Garden Beds

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (January 2010) - Cats and gardeners have a complicated relationship, particularly when it comes to kitty’s toilet habits. Cats are known for relieving themselves into neat little holes in the dirt - preferably the nice, soft, cultivated dirt found in garden beds. And most gardeners, even the cat lovers among us, really hate that.
Cat poop in the garden is a health hazard, and finding a ‘buried treasure’ amongst the lettuces can be infuriating and worrisome - even if the culprit is your own beloved pet.
With an estimated 80 million cats in the U.S., banishing all free-roaming felines from your yard is probably not an option. But cats can be excluded from garden beds with a simple wire screen you can make yourself, using concrete reinforcing wire, wire cutters and a pair of gloves.

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Where's the Merit in Merit Pay For Teachers?

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La Vida Local

By Andy Waddell, Special to SantaCruzWire
SANTA CRUZ (December 2009) - Teachers take tests. In addition to all the exams I endured to get through college and acquire a master’s degree, I have taken the CBEST, the CLAD, the CSET, and probably a few others I have forgotten, sweating with a number two pencil in hand, and paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege, all in order to teach high school English.
Teachers give tests. We administer finals, read essay exams, proctor SATs, and enjoy the sadistic thrill of passing out pop quizzes. Although you run into the odd dreamer now and then who says, “those things are meaningless” and insists only on “authentic assessment,” most of us cannot conceive of education without the forced, timed exhibition of knowledge known as a test.
Why then are teachers so reluctant to be paid according to their students’ performance on a test?

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Bamboo Bikes - Santa Cruz Cycle Maker Goes Global

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La Vida Local

Written by Maria Gaura

LA SELVA BEACH (December 2009) - Custom bike builder Craig Calfee has spent two decades crafting featherweight bicycle frames out of high-tech carbon fiber, and selling them to elite cyclists. But his travels in Africa got him thinking about a different type of building material - and a different type of bicycle rider.
The result of Calfee’s brainstorm is Bamboosero, a line of moderately-priced bikes with frames made of bamboo. The frames are engineered to Calfee’s high standards, but handmade by craftsmen in Africa, Asia and Latin America out of locally-sourced bamboo. While Bamboosero aims to do good, it isn’t a charity – it’s a business partnership with an altruistic edge. Bamboosero aims to bring desperately-needed skilled jobs to developing nations by training workers, helping them set up workshops, and marketing their products in wealthier countries.
“We’re trying to develop a market, and an industry,” Calfee said. “And the way to start is by selling bikes in the U.S. and Europe. By just being good customers we can have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

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The Future of Community Websites (And Why You Should Care)

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Arts and Review

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (December, 2009) - What is the role of community websites in the ever-changing media world? Is the internet killing journalism or creating a new, more inclusive method of information sharing? And what the heck is an “aggregator”? These are just a few of the questions participants pondered last week at a conference called “Entrepreneurship and the Community Web” sponsored by The University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Maria Gaura and I, co-founders of Santa Cruz Wire, joined the creators of fifteen other local or hyper-local websites based in California to discuss the financial, legal and editorial challenges of managing a community based, on-line news source. We were both fascinated and frustrated by what we heard. Because this topic has lasting implications for how news and information will be delivered in the future, we want to share our impressions with SC Wire readers.

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Top Authors Help 'Beat' Go On

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La Vida Local

SANTA CRUZ (December 2009) - Dennis Morton leaned across a table at Santa Cruz County’s Juvenile Hall reading aloud a paragraph penciled by a 14-year-old boy. The topic was the boy’s first drink and he wrote that the alcohol had felt like “medicine” for how it made his problems fade away. Morton, a teacher and radio-show host, nodded his head slowly at the paragraph’s conclusion. “That was a very full story in six lines,” he said. “How did it sound to hear what you wrote?”
The boy, dark-haired and built like a linebacker, dropped his head. “It sounded good,” he said shyly.
Exchanges like that go on each week in juvenile detention facilities across the San Francisco Bay Area. They’re at the heart of a program called “The Beat Within,” which aims to promote literacy and provide positive recognition for teenagers behind bars. Each week, the program distributes a thick newsletter featuring writing and artwork from incarcerated teens, along with essays from men and women doing harder time in prison.
Now a score of writers – from bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler to novelist Laurie King – are pitching in to help keep the program alive in Santa Cruz’s Juvenile Hall.

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Trans-Africa Cyclists Rally for Tour of California

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La Vida Local

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (December 2009) - The Tour of California bike race is an eight-day, 750-mile trek that summits a couple of mountain passes and includes at least one heart-stopping ascent per day. Big whoop. Santa Cruz filmmaker Brain Vernor has ridden a road race that makes Levi Leipheimer’s recent Tour of California victory look like the pony ride at the county fair. And Vernor rode his race lugging a backpack full of camera equipment.
Admittedly, the elite riders in the Tour of California pedal a lot faster than Vernor and the fifty or so other participants in the 7,500 mile Tour D’Afrique, an annual road race that wends from Cairo, Egypt, to Cape Town, South Africa. And yes, the ToC athletes put in thousands of training miles preparing for the main event.
But they don’t sleep on the ground for four months at a stretch, they don’t ride for weeks on unpaved roads, and they almost certainly don’t eat stewed camel meat after a day in the saddle. Vernor has done all of the above, and filmed the experience, creating “Where Are You Go”, a documentary of the 2008 Tour D’Afrique.

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Bike Wrecks Spur Campus Concern

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University Life

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (November 2009) - The bike path that trisects UC Santa Cruz’s Great Meadow offers spectacular views of Monterey Bay, and an exhilarating free-fall on the downhill ride. But a rash of serious accidents in recent months has campus officials trying to slow cyclists who blast downhill at speeds as high as 40 miles per hour, and sometimes end up in the emergency room.
This month, shortly after another cyclist was carted away in an ambulance, UCSC’s department of Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) posted informational signs along the path, Burma-Shave style, showing some chilling statistics.
“13 solo crashes on bike path in two years,” read one sign. “7 by ambulance, 4 by helicopter, 2 walked away,” read another. Further along, at the top of the final downhill run, a third sign said “Please slow down.”

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Keeping Kids Healthy, Without the Politics

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La Vida Local

By Zach Friend, Special to Santa Cruz Wire
SANTA CRUZ (November 2009) - The recent funding crisis facing the state Healthy Families program, which provides much needed health insurance to California’s children, highlights an oft-ignored reality; that our failed state budgetary process and ideological entrenchments have a real-world effect on the health of actual children.

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Stronger Neighborhoods and a Safe City

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La Vida Local

By David J. Terrazas, Special to Santa Cruz Wire

SANTA CRUZ (November, 2009) -- It was exactly one day prior to a scheduled event where residents were set to gather downtown to mark the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake when Tyler Tenorio was senselessly murdered. The anniversary event would memorialize the death and destruction that Santa Cruz suffered two decades earlier as a result of a natural catastrophe. More pointedly, the event would also celebrate the remarkable efforts of residents who tirelessly worked together with a sense of optimism to rebuild a broken city. 
It is a tragic coincidence that it has taken the murder of a sixteen-year-old boy to catalyze our community to work together again to find solutions to address an entirely different type of challenge – ensuring that Santa Cruz is a safe and sustainable city for future generations.

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The Mysterious Benedict Society - Paranoid Tales for Exceptional Children

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Arts and Review

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (November 2009) - The bestselling Mysterious Benedict Society series opens with a newspaper solicitation: “gifted children” are sought to participate in a special test. The test is not what it seems, however, and the “winners” – four misfit kids - are sucked into a dangerous and frightening quest.
The stage is set for an ominous adventure story that serves up some seriously paranoid subject matter.
The plot of this three-volume series, aimed at children ages ten and up, revolves around subliminal mind control, ineffective and corrupt authorities, cult-like brainwashing camps for children, and other staples of the tin-hat conspiracy crowd. But this anxious tale is not simply Kafka for Kids. The bleakness is leavened with transforming friendship, and the triumph of clever children outsmarting the adult world.

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The Return of the Native - Bringing Back a Vanished Butterfly

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (November 2009) - The Pipevine Swallowtail, a cobalt-streaked butterfly with orange-and-white speckled underwings, once thrived in Santa Cruz County. But the local population of these beautiful creatures blinked out 100 years ago, not to be seen again for nearly five generations.
Now, they’re back – at least a few of them are – and living in a lush, two-acre garden adjacent to the Pasatiempo golf course. And if a group of local gardeners is successful, this little band of insect pioneers may soon venture out of its sanctuary to become a free-living, Santa Cruz native species once again.

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How Weird is My City? Santa Cruz Redefines "Normal"

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La Vida Local

By David Hoban, Special to Santa Cruz Wire
SANTA CRUZ (November 2009) - In 1968 my wife and I lived in London. Having been natives of Philadelphia, a colonial city with neighborhoods named after those in London, we were soon at home. So, it was with surprise in 1972, when we moved to Santa Cruz, that we found ourselves, culturally like fish out of water.
On every day of the year except Halloween, I often found myself confused. I couldn’t tell who was in costume at any given time. There was the ever- changing Santa Cruz top ten: The Sun Man, Ginger, The Dancer, The Shopping Bag Lady, The Umbrella Lady, The Rainbow Lady, and occasional men in suits. Surely in Philadelphia they would have been institutionalized. Yet here they were a part of a fabric of tolerance. What the hell was going on here?

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