Home improvement links

From the LA Times blog LA Land comes two links that look interesting.

The Brick House A brick house in Hemet that the owner is rennovating in as much style as possible while on a tight budget.

ecoENERGY at Daily Home Rennovation Tips has an exhaustive summary of a home energy report.

Trellis roundup

Earlier this month I started and then abandoned a post in response to the August Garden Design Workshop at the Gardening Gone Wild blog. This is my attempt to catch up. The GGW workshop for August focuses on trellises and screens.

My home-built redwood trellis shades a sun-exposed window and is planted with Roger's Red California grapes (Vitis californica "Roger's Red") on either side. They turn a nice shade of red before dropping their leaves so they'll give me shade in the summer and color in the fall.

The structural joinery is somewhat basic - butted joints secured with screws, but the lath work is loosely mortised into the uprights. I'll leave the redwood unpainted, but I did lay on a coat of zinc-based (clear) wood preservative to prevent termites as best as possible. I ripped down 2x4s to make a more aesthetically pleasing lumber size for the structural parts. The pieces I cut off became the lath. I feel pretty good about efficiently using my resources on that.

A picture of how it initially looked is here.

I noticed a little out of square problem and I additionally wanted to change out the straight corner bracing for something nicer so a bit later I took it down and reworked it. Curved corner bracing is now showcased at the front of the trellis and the out-of-square problem was eliminated. I also added some lath on top.

A more recent blog post shows how it looks from the far side of the garden after the improvements. (scroll down a bit for the picture).


Hawthorne park in LA Times

LA Times article link

From Lot to Spot

The article recaps a local controversy over converting a long-vacant lot into a park that I mentioned in an earlier blog post.

Vivian Franco, the community activist who has spearheaded the move to convert the lot to a park is far more eloquent than I.

Franco's zeal and idealism have run headlong into reality -- into local politics, dizzying bureaucracy, a weak economy. The lot, the way she tells it, has become a singular, hidden monument to land-use inequity -- to the discrepancy in green space available to the wealthy and the poor.

The lot is 100 feet from the house where Franco was raised. It was a loving home, with parents -- a mother with a third-grade education and a father who worked as a janitor, both Mexican emigres -- who preached the gospel of education and hard work. But as a kid, she suspected that she was no better than the abandoned lot down the street. That, she said, was wrong, and it is an experience that defines thousands of lives.

"That lot is who I am," she said. "You have a shared consciousness in a neighborhood, and that lot stamped us. This was a place of crime and blight, and it shaped our attitudes, our identities. If it was green and had a few trees? Yeah. A whole new world."


Bonus chore - rewire the phones

When we returned from the Lair, I couldn't get our DSL to work. With a couple evenings' diagnostic efforts I intuited that the problem was in my phone wiring.

These early 1950s homes didn't come with phone wires (or phones) installed. Consequently, the retrofit of phone lines to these older houses often took the form of four conductor wire strung around the house under the eaves and along the edge of the roof and then through an exterior wall into each room. As unaesthetic as this seems, most slab floored houses and many raised foundation houses used this retrofit method back in the day.

Over the years, the sheathing on the wires has deteriorated to the point that they are no longer weather-proof and corrosion can set in. I've repaired some failing wires before, but this time I couldn't find an obvious problem area - rather I found several areas where there was minor corrosion. For POTS (plain old telephone service) a little corrosion between conductors or on one conductor alone doesn't seem to be a big problem - our phone still worked OK (a bit of a noise problem, but not impossible). For DSL, it's a much bigger problem.

With a leap of faith in my intuition, I disconnected all the phone lines and replaced them with a hastily prepared Cat 5e wire run right to my DSL modem. Bingo! It worked. The failure mode was identified. But now I have to re-wire all the phone lines the right way (without outdoor wire runs) and with Cat 5e or Cat 6 wire.

Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't run some video along with the new phone lines.

HomeTech seems to have useful tutorials with pictures along with a good selection of appropriate parts.

Week at the Lair

No photos of my own this week because my camera is out of commission.

We spent a truly relaxing week at the Lair of the Golden Bear, returning 8/25 after a one night layover in Santa Barbara. We were blissfully far away from the reach of any cell phone or wireless connection. (Actually I was told by other campers that of the major carriers only Verizon worked, and I have AT&T.) Nearby payphones don't allow incoming calls. The wheels of progress turn slowly: There was wireless access at the Lodge this year, but I had no way to use it. In any case, I'm not sure I approve of wireless for the Lair.

We go 11th week, which is often viewed as an undesirable week and only a stepping stone to an earlier, more desirable, week but I've come to like ending the summer on a strong note and we have an investment in the friends we've made that week. There's actually a competitive rush top get your Lair reservation in as early as possible (March) but I won't know my ex-spouse's vacation schedule until May. So next year I'm thinking that I'll have to reserve 11th week and some other week in order to reasonably address vacation time uncertainty.

My son's goal was to play, and he did: creek, pool, and lake were the playground. Here he is relaxing after a lake swim.

My goal this year was to go hiking, and I did.

Monday was a hike to Waterhouse Lake where I shared a swim with a small water snake. Waterhouse Lake is a short hike down from ~8000 feet to 7500 feet. The hike back out is a real aerobic workout for sea level denizens like me with a lot of granite friction climbing up the sides of the valley which was scraped clean so long ago by glaciers.

Tuesday was an ~8 mile hike around Pinecrest Lake and up to Cleo's Bath. The Bath is a swimming hole rushing with water in wetter years. This year we stood under what is normally 10' of running water.

Wednesday was a recovery day that allowed me to do some tie dying. I redyed a canvas grocery bag from last year that I wasn't happy with and did five additional bags. Juli got really envious of how my older Trader Joes bag turned out so she absconded with it upon my return.

Thursday I hiked to the base of Sardine Falls and up a slightly dangerous scree slope to the top. This hike started at about 8500' and went up only at the end. Still, hiking up scree at 8500 was another good aerobic workout.

The hikes were interesting to me because not only because of the destinations, but also because of the wide variety of native plants that I saw. This caused a bit of cognitive dissonance, since I guess I had turned off that part of my brain in preparation for being away from home. Some I recognized and some I did not. The meadows were particularly impressive with iris, columbine, grasses, and the EVER ELUSIVE Wyethia. Great fields of Wyethia! Since I have a poor memory I assumed it was W. ovata, but according to calflora.net, W. Ovata is not found up there, so it's probably W. angustifolia and W. mollis (there were two forms that were easily distinguishable). Some seeds may have stuck to my socks. I guess I'm still looking for W. ovata. One reason to go to the Lair earlier might be to see more natives in bloom.

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos, probably rotundifolious or mollis) was widespread and it was interesting to see that many of the berries on one plant in particular looked like they had been parasitized.

This is my second "Week at the Lair" post. Perhaps I need a "Lair" tag?

Neither the official list of things to bring, nor my earlier augmented list of things to bring was canonical. Next year I also need to bring:

hammer (to pound down floor nails and put in my own nail hooks)
nails (8d will be OK) or screw hooks
beer (It's on my earlier list already, but I brought wine. Beer is really the best adult libation for warm afternoons, bar none. )
No red clothes (particularly important for 10 year olds)
A guide to Sierra flora
A pocket magnifier (for bugs and seeds and stuff)

For comparison, the official list of item to bring to the Lair is located at http://www.alumni.berkeley.edu/Alumni/Lair_of_the_Golden_Bear/What_to_Bring.asp


Dr. Demento

Do you remember Dr. Demento? Many people that I asked do.

Dr. Demento was on local (LA area) radio when I was in junior high or thereabouts and his two hour show was tuned to just the right level of absurd /irreverent / scatological / political / sexual humor for me. Listening now with a more mature ear, it turns out he's actually a very specialized musicologist, specializing in obscure, humorous, and novelty audio recordings.

He's lost most of his distribution, but he's still carried on three radio stations (not within reasonable listening distance). However, he also archives his shows online. I downloaded a show to listen to while driving to Lair of the Bear and it was a hit with my 10 year old.

Dr. Demento

Griffith Park in the LA Weekly

Another article on the dismal future of LA's greatest park.

Of interest is the power that the article ascribes to local city councilman Tom Labonge, in who's district the park resides.

PERHAPS NOWHERE IS THE CURRENT PUSH led by Los Angeles City Hall and its platoon of private lobbyists for an overbuilt, overcommercialized, re-engineered L.A. better epitomized than in the unfolding struggle over the so-called Melendrez Master Plan for Griffith Park.

"Pleasure pier": Tacky commercialization envisioned on Los Feliz Bridge.

The voluminous report, prepared at a cost of $400,000, is packed with ideas for jazzing up the nation's premier swath of urban wilderness — aerial tramways, parking structures, meeting rooms, paving, concrete and concentrated development that many feared would include restaurant and hotel chains.

Given that the whole point of Griffith Park is the opposite — to preserve unspoiled natural beauty for all citizens, rich and poor alike, to use for free — reaction to the plan has been predictable. Virtually everyone hates it.


NYT on sustainable garden design

I suspect that we'll see an increasing shift in paradigms (or at least buzzwords) among the gardening press from native gardening to a more general sustainable gardening. This shift is already well underway but perhaps has not reached full market penetration in the public's eye. A NYT article on garden design and native plants was recommended to me by Maribeth. It nicely highlights this shift. Don't miss the very nice slide show that comes along with it.

There's no new concepts here, just an explicit refocusing on a wider set of concepts that already play together: "Sustainability" includes all the same issues that one might have previously considered in a native garden, but the more general word allows broader conversations about the garden and how it relates to its context and intended use, water capture, water use and reuse, wildlife, human use, aesthetics, and biodiversity.

Here's a part of the NYT article:

Over the past five years, as climate change has become more obvious and energy costs have spiraled up, a number of designers have begun to champion an approach to landscaping that marries traditional environmental concerns — sustainability, biodiversity, restoration, conservation — with a sensitivity to aesthetics and a flexibility that they said was missing from green-gardening crusades of the past.

Movements that gained popularity in the 1970s, like xeriscaping, which introduced the creed of no added water, and the native plant movement, often got in their own way, these designers believe, by getting hung up on orthodoxies.

“Xeriscaping as a rule tended to look horrible,” said Andrea Cochran, 54, a San Francisco landscape architect who did environmental planning for the Tennessee Valley Authority and the National Forest Service before moving on to residential gardens. “The save-the-planet message was powerful,” she added, but a lack of attention to aesthetic issues left her and other well-meaning gardeners unhappy with the results — dusty summer yards full of scrappy native species.

And too often, Mr. Trainor said, those earlier movements were overly rigid and prescriptive. “It’s hard to make ordinary people fit into such a tight scheme,” he said.

The main thing, these newer designers believe, is to win clients over to environmental landscaping through design that is both thoughtful and seductive.

In some cases, the seduction involves small adjustments to traditional eco-friendly practices. Mark Word, a 40-year-old designer who has been creating gardens in Austin, Tex., for 10 years, has faced resistance from some clients to native plants and other low-water alternatives. “Many native Texas plants, like certain grasses, tend to not look so good in 4-inch or 1-gallon pots at the nursery,” he explained. And “most people don’t want their garden to stick out as the only house on the block that looks radically different.”

Believing that he can push clients only so far without losing their confidence, he has found it helpful to temper native plantings with strong design elements that can act as visual anchors, such as crisp-edged stonework or a sculptural non-native plant like a sago palm or a silvery furcraea. In one recent project in Austin, a small front yard and a backyard at a second home for two doctors from Dallas, Mr. Word used a mix of native and foreign species, along with paths and retaining walls made of Texas Hill Country limestone, so his clients could relate to the garden more easily. “My projects need to weave nicely into the residential style of Austin,” he said. “They have to be conventionally attractive and recognizable as a garden in the sense of their particular neighborhood.”


Headed to the Lair of the Golden Bear

We're sailing on Wed PM with Warren and then taking off Thursday AM for N. California. We'll spend a day with my buddy Marc in Calaveras County and then a week at Lair of the Golden Bear. This is my 4th or 5th? year at Lair and my son's second. (I attended as a child.) Here's a link to my 2007 blog entry about what to bring.

We have Twain and Harte short stories to provide context for our Calaveras County visit provided at a bargain price by Dave's Olde Books as well as an audio book of Bridge to Terabithia. After I purchased it (also from Dave's) I was told it's commonly read in 5th grade, so my choice seems quite prescient. I also thought I'd try a couple hours of Dr. Demento and see how that went over with the 10 year old. No DVD players for the long car trip - I think we can bond over and through the audio, but not with him in suspended mental animation while he watches a movie.

I'm planning on driving back through Santa Barbara to rest a day on the 23rd. Back in LA on the 24th.


French doors in

The doors are in. Warren helped me so much that it's going to be hard to even up the karmic balance. I'll post pictures later.


French door project progress

As I write this, I have a nice gaping hole in the side of my bedroom - just right for two new doors. Warren will be here tomorrow early AM and if all goes to plan, we'll hang and install my two doors.

There's some disappointments: A jack stud was riddled with termites - it looks like they attacked the window (it was really bad - former owner had tarted it up with all manner of patches) and moved from there into the king stud and jack stud on one side of the window. They don't appear to have gotten into the header. I've pulled off the old jack stud, but I'm debating about replacing the king stud. It could be too complicated to do so, and the load bearing will be taken by the new jack stud that I install. Will decide tomorrow.

I didn't get as far on the electrical as I had hoped. Warren has more experience there, so I think this is nothing more than analysis paralysis.

Juli has taken pictures, so I'll post those when I have a chance.


French door project underway

I stripped off most of the stucco from the area where I'll be installing the new French doors this evening. Juli helped and enjoyed swinging a sledge. She'll enjoy the Sawz All even more, I'm sure.

There's an electrical outlet that needs to be moved located where the new door is going, and I wanted to inspect that situation as well as suss out the condition of the wall studs. It turns out that there was one stud with some termite damage and a significant amount of dry rot around the window, but nothing show stopping thus far. Both those weak areas get removed in this upgrade.

I had a phone conversation with Warren and we agreed that it was so far so good. He'll bring a few tools on Sunday that I don't have. Confidence is high since we've done this job together once before.

I'm changing plans slightly: I wasn't originally planning to do many electrical modifications, but I now think I want an outdoor outlet, a switched lamp above the new doors, and a two gang interior electrical outlet. I'll need to inventory my parts tomorrow.

Pictures were taken, but those will have to wait.

Native Plant Blogs

A short list of native plant blogs that I haven't yet had the opportunity to explore.

Deborah Small’s Weblog looks promising. She's in San Diego County. One of her areas of focus appears to the ethnobotany: In California sycamore / Platanus racemosa she talks about making tea from sycamore bark. There's some excellent photos there too.

foliasalviarum has more than just a salvia focus.

I find it interesting that both foliasalvaiarum and Deborah Small's site feature recent blogs on Datura. Perhaps there's a renaissance of appreciation for the plant that is commonly known as loco weed.

The Ojaigarden looks promising, but I haven't spent much time there.


Back to water II

BadMomGoodMom sent me this nice URL to the National Weather Service who have a nice graphical tool for looking at precipitation, both current and historical. She's got a current post about local rainfall, and I thought I'd sing along.

I've graphed here the precipitation for calendar year 2007 across the entire U.S. I've been unable to find a way to graph the water year, which runs from Aug 1 to July 31, but these pictures will suffice. The scale of the images is in percentage of normal, as shown below. What's normal? I'd assume that the NWS uses median rainfall as "normal", but regardless of what they use if they indicate 0-50% of normal, then that means little rain.

Remember all the drought news from Georgia last year? You can see it here as the yellow-red zones at the right of the country. We're looking similar to Georgia in terms of percentage of normal rainfall over on the west coast. The differences in impact last year (it seemed a larger news story that Georgia was dry) seem mostly due to the fact that Georgia has a fast growing population and no history of prior water shortages that would have forced it into planning for drought.

Now let's look at January of 2008 in a region a little closer to home, below.
That's Catalina Island off the coast of California. The city names are readable if you click on the images.

Wasn't January 2008 a nice change from 2007? It shows a comfortable margin above normal almost across the board. If the trend had continued, we wouldn't be talking about drought quite so much. Now take a look at February below. February is traditionally a heavy rainfall month for us, but as you can see we were pretty parched.

And March, below. I expressed the opinion around early March right here in this blog that we'd still recover a normal rainfall based on a purely statistical look at typical rainfall. I was wrong.

And April. More of the same:

Lather, rinse, repeat until we get to today and start talking about drought.

You could argue that local rainfall doesn't matter too much since we get lots of water from the State Water Project. That's true, but the Sierra snowpack, which started out normal to high, didn't last due to warmer than normal temperatures and didn't get replenished due to lack of late winter storms.

Local rainfall also matters to local streams which host wildlife, whether intended as wildlife sanctuaries or not.

Back to water

BadMomGoodMom often writes on weather issues, and an email from her reminded me that I hadn't written about water or rainfall in some time. We didn't have our hoped-for rainfall this year, so we're back to drought. This blog post started off with the goal of talking about the rainy season just past, but quickly veered into policy issues.

While we're in the long, dry, summer months it's useful to look back on the year in water. California's water year does not coincide with the calendar year. Our water year is offset to start and end during our dry season, in order to capture an entire winter's rainfall.

Progress in reducing water consumption seems glacially slow, but governments work at that sort of pace. Conservation efforts are targeted at outdoor water usage.

A key [Los Angeles] City Council committee voted Tuesday to approve Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's new crackdown on excessive water usage, doubling fines for residents and quadrupling them for businesses.

The "drought buster" plan crafted by the Department of Water and Power seeks to punish people who water their lawns between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., or wash their cars without "shut-off devices" on their hoses and restaurants that serve water without being asked.

Because of questions from the council's Energy and the Environment Committee over the last few weeks, the plan probably won't go into effect until September.
The proposal is expected to reach the full council later this month.

LA's reform pace can be contrasted to the nearby City of Long Beach, which has had drought rules in place for at least six months, even prior to the failure of the 07-08 wet season to replenish reservoirs, and my hometown of Hawthorne which is currently considering a "green yards" ordinance and has no plan in place. Why the difference?

Some of the difference in how Cities approach water use and regulation may be driven by the fact that large municipalities tend to have their own water districts. Rising costs at the LA Dept of Water and Power, the largest municipal water district in the nation, have an effect on the bottom line of the city's budget. Los Angeles City is therefore incentivized to reduce costs if, for example, their water district has to purchase expensive water from outside.

My water comes from American States Water Company which is not associated solely with one municipality.

Furthermore, there is an intrinsic conflict between conservation and the fact that AS Water is a publicly traded company; revenue is linked to consumption through the rates we pay. If conservation is successful, revenues fall. Officers of a publicly traded company have a duty not to drive their company out of business. For this reason, AS Water has taken as its first conservation action the action of decoupling revenue from sales. They note that other companies have done so successfully with a WRAM, or water revenue adjustment mechanism. What this appears to mean is that although you might use less water due to successful conservation efforts, you won't see a savings from it. There are already "water service charges" which are a fixed part of my current monthly bill. Expect those to increase.

Simultaneously, they also want to provide a greater level of distinction between the current rate structure (fairly flat no matter how much water you use) and a conservation-oriented rate structure which would charge significantly more money for higher levels of water usage and do so with a finer-grained approach than is currently used. Since this change in the rate structure is expected to reduce consumption at the high end and they want to stay "revenue neutral" it has to be implemented at the same time as the previously described change. link

Rate changes have to go through the one or more Commissions for approval, a slow process, which might be one reason why these changes, publicly released in July 2006, haven't yet been felt. They also don't have much of an idea of how elastic demand is for water, so the ultimate pricing structure is going to be determined by a process of successive iterations.

Lawn Alternatives

According to conservation advocates, the place to look for water savings in 2008 is outside. This is in comparison to the last drought, when the push was for low flow toilets and low flow faucets which were deemed broadly successful in reducing per capita demand. These are still the primary conservation recommendations of my water company, but they do list behavioral changes (navy showers, water off when brushing teeth, etc) and a few landscaping changes as viable conservation measures.

Among other conservation measures my water company advises, "When landscaping, use plants that require little water. You can decorate creatively with interesting objects that need no water at all, such as rocks, bricks, benches, gravel, and deck areas."

Our free market has spawned solutions too. This blurb is interesting in that it quotes some consumption figures for typical and atypical lawns:

Miriam Goldberger, the president of Wildflower Farm says, "Eco-Lawn produces a thick, handsome turf, and it requires minimal effort and resources to maintain. It's the right lawn for an environmentally stressed world."

A standard Kentucky bluegrass or perennial rye lawn requires one to two inches of water a week. For a 1,000 square foot lawn, that amounts to more than 100,000 thousand gallons of water a year. Eco-Lawn, however, requires minimal watering. In central and southern California, no more than 17,500 gallons of water are necessary for a 1,000 square foot Eco-Lawn from April through October, and only 25,600 gallons for the whole year.

Another Kentucy bluegrass alternative is UC Verde, developed by the University of California. This is a cultivar of a north American native grass, Buffalo Grass, which I do not believe is native to California.

I've written elsewhere at length in this blog about lawn alternatives.

This has been a somewhat meandering blog post and didn't end up where I thought it would. I'll follow up in another post with some locally pertinent water data. Unanswered questions from this post: Total water consumption versus per capita water consumption: How are we doing?, Are water consumption figures quoted in the Eco-lawn blurb reasonable?

Yard cops

LA Times columnist Steve Lopez has previously tackled the sometimes byzantine encounters between homeowners and City yard regulations. Today he writes about another Glendale yard cop encounter.

In the next day, I hope to examine some of the drought pressures that we're all living under - whether we realize it or not.

Here we go again, back to my favorite place in all of Southern California -- the city where no good deed goes unpunished.


This time it's not about the ban on frontyard fences, or a threatened $347,000 fine for a little tree trimming. This time we've got a case of City Hall yard cops cracking down on a resident who has gone native, replacing a green but thirsty lawn with drought-resistant plants.

Socially responsible?


In compliance with city code?

Not on your life.

If this seems like déjà vu all over again, that's because the case is quite similar to the one I wrote about in February. Back then, Pete Anderson and Sally Browder were threatened with "criminal charges" after switching from water-guzzling landscaping to native California plants and a rock bed.

"No brown, all green," an ever-vigilant Glendale official had warned, but the city backed off after a little crusading here in this space.

With that in mind, Glendale resident Dvoshe Walkowiak wondered if I could make another house call.

"Please," she said in an e-mail. "Glendale is out of control."

Always happy to help.

On Monday afternoon, I drove out to the house in question. Walkowiak lives on the western edge of the city, and as I approached, I saw one green lawn after another, with sprinklers running at some houses.

In a drought, shouldn't they be the people who are cited?

Read the rest here.


French door screen

I've ordered a Bug-Off Instant Screen Door for my French door from Amazon.

It uses a spring-loaded rod to fit in the door frame and closes at the seam with a magnet. Should be just the thing to keep the June bugs (they're still here!) and mosquitoes out.

There's a magnet at the center seam and Velcro at the edges to make a seal. Here's the picture from Amazon.com.

French doors coming up

This weekend I have the help of buddy Warren, who will give me guidance on putting in some French doors as outlined in this previous blog post.

There's some controversy about putting the door in place of the existing window rather than centered under the roof peak. The reasons are practical and aesthetic: The window is the same width as the doors that will replace it and there is already a header in place that I can use. The interior layout of the room would be really jammed up if I centered the doors as seen from the outer wall since a closet takes up space on the left side of the doors (as viewed from outside). Long term plans call for demoing the closet, and perhaps replacing with a small window. If and when I do that, the open wall space is more valuable in a long stretch than evenly spaced around the door. Finally, offset placement allows for a new garden bed to the left of the doors that will physically and visually separate the bedroom door area from the kitchen door area. I could change my mind, of course, but these seem compelling, particularly the part about not having to put in a new header.

Salad spinner? Who needs 'em

The LA Times has a Food Section article about the newly rivitalized salad spinner. Many new designs are on store shelves, they work better than ever, etc, etc.

...Judging by how many of these devices appearing on store shelves these days, manufacturers are hoping to entice us to put our salads back on the spin cycle. In testing six new or popular models, I rated them on ease of assembly and use, appearance (especially whether the bowl was attractive enough for serving) and, of course, how well they dried the lettuce leaves. I deliberately started with overly drenched greens, and whirled each gadget for 30 revolutions.

All the spinners have basic elements in common. There's an outer bowl that houses an inner colander and a snap-on lid with a spinning mechanism. And that's where things get interesting: Pick from cranks, knobs, levers and a plunger....

The author of the article writes,

I've always been old school, washing lettuce in a big bowl, then giving it another rinse in a colander. With a plate on top of the colander, I vigorously shake the leaves dry.

But it's clear that I'm a lettuce loner. Nearly everyone I know seems to have had a salad spinner.

I'm surprised no one mentioned the ad-hoc salad spinner that I have used successfully for years. I can't be the only one who has thought of it: I take my washed lettuce and place it into the center of a clean kitchen towel, drawing the corners together to make a sort of sling to carry the lettuce. I then walk outside and whirl this around by hand for only a few seconds, et voila, dry lettuce.