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WATER SHORTAGE: You take a long walk...

WATER SHORTAGE: You take a long walk on Ventura’s long pier to see Wavespout, an $80,000 copper sculpture. Expecting an awe-inspiring gusher, you find barely a trickle--the on-again-off-again spout is being temperamental. . . . “We’re still trying to iron out the bugs,” said Sonia Tower, the city’s cultural affairs coordinator. . . . In operation since the quarter-mile-long pier reopened last October, the spout has chronic pump trouble, especially during high tide. “It’s beautiful when it works,” Tower said, adding: “It works most of the time.”

ALL ABOUT EVE: If being the designated driver on New Year’s Eve makes you feel like a party pooper, you can always rent a limousine, but better hurry: Ventura County limos are just about all booked. . . . “The major factor in renting limos for New Year’s Eve is nobody wants to drink and drive,” said Richard Thorsen of Classic Limousine Service in Thousand Oaks. . . . The biggest events of the year for county limo services: New Year’s Eve, prom nights, the Academy Awards.

HEADS UP: Brewing beer at home has become one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the country (B4), but there are limits. . . . According to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Department, one household can brew only 200 gallons a year. . . . The same quantity of wine can be concocted, but under both federal and state law, bathtub gin is a thing of the past: Distilled spirits cannot be made at home.

HOT ISSUE: Wood-burning fireplaces can be romantic and cozy if you can ignore the smoke, the mess and the hassle of lighting the logs--not to mention the cost of buying the wood (B1). . . . For the same experience without the irritation, consider gas logs. Made of ceramic or cement, they sit on a bed of sand, which spreads the flames upward, “making them look just like real logs,” said Brian Smith of Patio & Fireside Super Stores. Fiberglass sprinkled on the sand glows as embers do, adding to the ambience. Gas logs, which come in kits costing $50 to $200, cost about 75 cents an hour to run.

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