Friday, May 28, 2010

Two Short Films. Two Amazing People.

Very cool films. Enjoy!

Two Short Films. Two Amazing People.: "

Two short films. Two amazing people I’d love for you to meet.

1. Soren. You know TV’s reality drama “The Deadliest Catch” about the world’s most dangerous profession. Well Soren Sorenson has lived that hardcore commercial fisherman’s life for 50 years, and he’s lived it without an ounce of bravado or showmanship, despite his record-breaking catches and the fact that 6 of his boats have ended up on the bottom of the ocean. Now at 72 years old, you can bet he’s seen a lot of change in his life.

2. Krishna. As the world “goes green” most of us are doing our part by finding recycling bins and seeking cars with better gas mileage. Krishna Nadella has taken on a bigger mission. Having emigrated from India to the US at 23 years old, and with inspiration from his grandmother’s primitive recycling efforts back home, he has set out to completely redefine what it means to recycle plastic–and it’s working. By intercepting millions of pounds of “trash” from our landfills and making plastics infinitely recyclable, he’s poised to change the world. By licensing a patent from a US University for $1 and putting it to use for us all, he is one of the most innovative minds I’ve ever met.

Both these 4 minute documentaries are shorts in film series I’ve been commissioned to create for Russell Investments. I’m exploring topics… like Innovation and Change, as seen in these videos, but also ideas around Risk, Planning, and beyond. The rest of the films can be found here. Please check them out. My goal has been to make this series insightful and beautiful. I’d love to hear your thoughts below if any of this strikes a chord.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Industrial ag can’t get enough federal bucks?

It is articles like this that really show where these Senators get their bribes. I'm fairly confident that if you were to trace the money in their coffers it would track back to Industrial Ag concerns. Either that or they directly own stock/make personal moneys off of Industrial Ag.

The other subset of this article that I can't help but find troubling is the continued idea that food stamp holders either can't or don't eat healthy food. If I never manage to do anything else I want to convince people that it is in fact CHEAPER to eat healthy than it is to purchase pre-made high cost low health foods.

Industrial ag can’t get enough federal bucks?: "
Snow us the money! David Goldstein, Washington correspondent for McClatchy newspapers, reports that three senators are standing up for the poor, neglected industrial agriculture industry against the wicked Know Your Farmer Know Your Food program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From the story:

Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas , John McCain of Arizona and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia complained in a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that his agency spent $65 million last year on a program “aimed at small, hobbyist and organic producers whose customers generally consist of affluent patrons at urban farmers markets.”

Maybe someone should tell the senators about the soaring use of SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) at farmers markets. Could it be that poor people recognize good, healthy food when they eat it too? And what a slap at the farmers who grow food for direct sale to people who eat it. The lawmakers evidently don’t know how much hard work is involved if they think it’s a hobby.

Goldstein also spoke with Bruce Babcock, an economist and the director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. The money quote (emphasis added):

[Babcock] said it was “ironic” that the senators and others objected to the USDA spending $65 million on Know Your Farmer when commodity producers received $5 billion during the past two years, and the crop insurance industry received $7 billion.

Sounds like the senators want their friends to get all the money, not just 99% of it.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A thought on defining your terms

One of my preoccupations is religion.  I write professionally on religion, faith and its affect on real people.  I do this because of my own passions and whims.  This leads people to assume certain things about me - especially as I will attend a congregation for some time as part of my research without necessarily subscribing to or sharing its faith.  This isn't done out of a lack of respect or even out of a dearth of personal faith, but it really confuses all those people who want nice categorical boxes.

I study religion and faith because of my love of the metaphysical, the divine and the passion people hold for those ideas, as well as a basic curiosity.  I spend a lot of my time thinking about these things.  I recently read a much more interesting post on this topic sent to me by my friend Tod - Mad Max Mormonism vs Star Trek Mormonism.

It has led me to question a definition: Latter.  Weird right?  Ok, but here's the thing - SO much ideology hinges on that word.  Latter.

Is it the end of days?  Jesus is on the way and the worse it gets the better it gets?  Or.  Could it be the other meaning of latter?  You know, the one that simply means "second".  Not latest, not last, but latter.  The one wherein the Lord, our God, is giving us a second chance to get it right.

Maybe if this definition had been made clear, many things in our state would be different.  Instead of feeding the beast that is corporate greed, polluting and raping the environment out of some sense that disregarding our stewardship of the earth is actually a good thing, we would be focusing on some of those other ideas our big brother tried to get us to hear.  The ones like loving our fellow humans, spending a lot more time with the needy, the lonely, and doing good works, the stuff that gets our hands dirty but our souls clean.

Maybe true believers could believe the good stuff not just the Apocalyptic Book part.  If we understood the definition of Latter, we could see the Revelations Book as a warning not a promise.  We could stop judging one another (which btw we aren't supposed to do either) and racing to the End of Days.   We could build intentional communities, enrich the earth, sustain ourselves and each other in joy.  We could also raise children who are thinking, connected citizens and most of all, we could practice faith instead of just preaching it.

True believers need to ask themselves what they are rushing forward to.  If we get to the end of the race today, do we meet the requirements?  Have we done anything other than rapine and war?  This isn't that kind of race.  How we get to the end actually matters more than how fast we do it.  For myself, I would like more time to get it right, to be that community described as Zion.  Hugh Nibley didn't seem to think we were getting it right and he was a much better thinker than I.

Maybe we need to define our terms.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Food Nifty: Granola Math!

Ok here is one recipe my family does, and I was going to blog it the next time I made it, but my wonderful pal already got an excellent blog post up - so why redo an excellent blog? My only add is that if you are a "camper" or "hiker" there is nothing better than homemade trail mix... Enjoy!

I have fond memories related to granola. My mother made ours, and the warm, toasty smell of oats wafting up the stairs late at night (the only time she could assemble it without lots and lots of “help”), to where I lay in bed, sneaking extra chapters in my book by the thin crack of light at the hinge of my door, was one of the best smells of childhood. (The others were the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, rubber cement, yeast for bread, and peppermint tea. Also, books.)

The mornings after Mom made granola were lovely. Sweet glazed oats, sunflower seeds, cinnamon… I could even tolerate the raisins. (Pleh.)

These days, granola is a favorite breakfast, snack, or supper at our house. I prefer to make it at home, to better accommodate our own flavor preferences, and also to fit our budget (it’s dirt cheap! Yay!) and avoid the chemicals that seem to go into even the expensive types. Why is xanthum gum in my cereal?

Granola is marvelously flexible. I stick fairly closely to the general ratio (see below), and then just go wild with the fun stuff.

Granola Basic Ratio

    5 cups old fashioned rolled oats about 3/4 cup honey, though you can substitute other sweets, like maple syrup, brown sugar, or molasses for a portion of the sweet. a scant 1/2 cup light-flavored oils, part of which can be other fats (see below again!)

Mix the sweet and fat together to more easily coat the oats; drizzle them over the oats and toss/stir well to coat them thoroughly, without globs.

Spread the oats in a shallow baking pan (the thinner, the better), and toast uncovered in a low oven (250* to 300*) until the oats are golden and fragrant. This could take as little as 20 minutes. Be sure to check and stir the oats at least every 10 minutes, and every 5 minutes as you get close to the end.

Clumpy, or Free?

If you like clusters of oats, try to disturb the mixture as little as possible while toasting and cooling it. If you prefer loose flakes, go ahead and break up the clumps each time you stir the oats during toasting.

Interesting Flavors

Variations and add-ins are where you can find the personal creative outlet in your breakfast foods. For instance:

Base Flavors

You might also consider adding a splash of good extracts to the sweet/fat mixture before drizzling, such as vanilla.

Dried Fruits

I prefer to mix in chopped dried fruits after the granola has cooled. It prevents the fruit scorching or hardening. Aim for about one cup of dried fruit in an official morsel size (rather small, about the size of raisins) rather than just a few great honking figs tossed on top. Those look like bugs, and no one wants that. Raisins are bad enough.

Raisins are also familiar, and cheap (almost tawdry, one might say, if one had a particular bias against raisins. Pleh.) Don’t overlook chopped dried apples, bits of fig or date, bits of banana chip, chopped dried tropical fruits, dried blueberries, cherries, raspberries, or cranberries… the options and flavor combinations are quite varied.

Think of dried fruits as an enhancement, not the main show; try to limit yourself to about a cup of mix-in fruit, total, per basic ratio batch of oats. This is harder than you think. It’s rather like taco salad. You start with something reasonable, and then it tends to get out of hand very rapidly.

Nuts In General

I prefer to use raw, naked nuts and let them roast with the oats, as above. You could choose to use already roasted nuts (but good gravy, buy them in a bulk food section, because the pre-packaged stuff is just highway robbery); if you do, look for unsalted nuts, or you risk an over-salted breakfast. Not nice.

You can mix in just about any nut (haven’t met one I didn’t like yet!), but make sure they are thoroughly shelled and quite naked.

If you’re mixing in flaked coconut (unsweetened), you could add it before roasting. If it’s the sweetened kind, sprinkle that in when the oats have cooled, or again, you risk scorching due to the higher sugar content in the sweetened flake coconut.

With these mix-ins, as with fruit, aim for about one cup total blended in with the five cups oats base. You could certainly vary the contents within that cup, though.

You can enhance the nut flavor by using nut butters in partial place of the oils in the basic ratio. For instance:

Honey-Nutty Granola

Substitute melted peanut or almond butter for about half the oil. Add about a cup of raw, naked nuts to the oats as you coat them, and let everything roast together.


I like to blend any spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, clove, or nutmeg, directly into the sweet/fat mixture for more even distribution through the cereal. Oats are fairly bland, but aim for enough spice to flavor without overpowering. For a hint of cinnamon, try a half-teaspoon blended with the sweet/fat mix for a basic granola ratio batch, and use about half that of the stronger spices. If you really like cinnamon, try a full teaspoon in the sweet/fat mix.

Storing It

Granola needs to be kept cool and away from ambient humidity, so something airtight on the shelf, or in the fridge, can work well. I prefer making smaller batches (10-cup oat bases), and doing it more frequently, rather than trying to put up 100 pounds of oats in a year’s supply of granola. Some things were meant to be stored as raw ingredients, and converted to nifty in small batches.

Eating It

Some members of my family like to put granola in a cup and eat it dry (tossing in a tablespoon of chocolate mini-chips makes them very happy.) Others are traditional “with milk” eaters. Still others prefer a bowl with a big blop of yogurt on top.

You can even make chewy granola bars by melting some marshmallows with butter, as for rice crispy treats, and blending in the granola instead, pressing it into bars and cutting. I don’t bother with wrapping or storage instructions for those, since they never survive long enough to need storing.

Rebel against Industrialized Breakfast Foods! Get crunchy and make your own granola. It’s a great way to ease into home-crafted food, and adds a lot of fiber to the family diet, too.

Just be forewarned: no one under the age of five actually chews raisins, so if you have kids in the diapering stages, be wary of “grapes.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Menu One: I think it worked, $18 fed 7 people well

My first attempt at the food portion of the blog is up.  I think it is easy to understand but, as happens with people who cook a lot, I don't know if it all makes as much sense as I think it does.  Please, if these aren't easy to follow, let me know.  I really want to help other people eat well, eat cheap and be healthy.  

On another note, this is all part of my sustainability movement.  I will be adding tidbits on different sustainable skills, resources and ideas.  I really think the key to freedom is moving away from the capitalistic cog in the machine system.  Opting out.  Ultimately this means buying land, no debt, living well on less.  It means making things with my own hands, eating food we either grow or grown within a short distance.  It also means getting our calorie base from plants, not animals.  I know that I don't know everything, but I have some skills and I love to share, that's how revolutions happen.  

I wish I could have you each over to dinner, share food and thoughts.  In the mean time, this is my table, wish you were here:

L&CV: Roasted Asparagus with almond slivers

I love asparagus, it grows well all over the west and mid-west and is usually easy to either grow yourself or find cheap at local markets.  It cooks easily and tastes great, all while looking fancy.  :)  This is a good way to do something a little different with something you might eat every week.

Equipment: Sharp knife and cutting board, casserole pan or glass cake pan, and aluminum foil (recycle :D).

Food: Asparagus, almond slivers, sea salt and earth balance.

Time: 5-10 min prep, 35 min cooking, total 45 minutes.

Start by cutting the woody ends off of the bottom of the asparagus.  Depending on the thickness of the stalk this will vary on how high up the stalk it goes, typically look for the color change to dark green and feel for the shift from quite hard to fairly bendy.

Lay out your asparagus in the cake pan in fairly even layers.  Spoon out dollops of earth balance over the top of the asparagus.

Add a generous tablespoon of sea salt shaken out over the top as well.

Take two (or more if you like) handfuls of almond slivers and spread them over the top.

You should have something that looks like this.  Just cover it with a foil sheet and fold the edges down to cap before putting it in the oven.

Add this to your oven cooking shiitakes, garlic and potatoes.  This will cook at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes but both temp and time can be adjusted as needed for your menu.  You are ultimately looking for a finished asparagus that is tender without being mushy.  Ovens vary so much its best to keep a close eye on it the first time you make it and check it for doneness by taste and texture.

When this is done you have a nice green plate with almonds that are mildly roasted.  Nice flavor and ready to serve.  

L&CV: Roasted Garlic

Here is a nice easy one that you can use in loads of other recipes and its a ton cheaper to make than buy.

Equipment: sharp knife and cutting board, and aluminum foil (please recycle!)

Food: Whole Garlic, olive oil.

Turn the garlic up on its side, without removing the "paper" layer from the outside, cut it in half along the width.

Now you need to take a sheet of foil and divide it into four sections.  (Just tear it, it doesn't need to be neat.)  You will now make a little "bowl" of foil.  Simply set the garlic half in the foil and cup it in your hand, pinch up the sides to mold it around the sides.

Drizzle olive oil over the exposed top of the garlic and place in the oven.  

This is part of the "menu" for the day so just pop these in with the Shiitake bacon and baked potatoes for the same temp as soon as you finish them up.  They will be done when the tops are browned up (or as soon as the bacon is done).  About 45 minutes at 250 degrees but they can be cooked faster and hotter if needed.  


These are ready to serve as a topper for potatoes or can be popped out of the "paper" outer layer of the garlic head and stored in an airtight container in the fridge to be used as an ingredient in all sorts of recipes.  

L&CV: Shiitake Bacon

Well I will not give timelines next time.  This takes longer than I thought it would.  Let's start with the basics: equipment and food.

Equipment: Sharp knife, cutting board, bowl, cookie sheet, parchment paper (this is one of those things you need to stock in your house).  

Food:  Shiitake mushrooms, olive oil and sea salt (table salt will not give the same result).

Time: prep 10 minutes, cooking 55 minutes.  Total 1 hour 5 minutes.

Wash your shiitakes in COLD water and gently brush off any dirt.  I swirl them around in a colander and then gently pat them dry between two paper towels or hand towels.

Twist and pull off the stems.

After you have all your caps separated, slice them into even width strips.  The even strips just help to keep the cooking time consistent for all pieces.  (I currently toss the stems but I'm looking for ways to use them as something other than compost.  Ideas?)

Slip them all in a bowl to be oiled.  
Get your olive oil and sea salt.  I use these:  (so nothing fancy).  

Pour about two tablespoons olive oil for every four handfuls of sliced mushrooms.  Add a solid tablespoon of sea salt to this mix and toss it all around in the bowl to coat the slices well.  Shiitakes will soak the oil up, don't be tempted to add more just toss it together fast.  

Lay them all out in an even layer on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

Set your oven to a low heat.  You are slow roasting these pieces and its easy to burn them on a higher heat.  I usually start out around 250 degrees then get impatient and bump it up to 325 by the end.  This seems to work well so I'll lay out the time the way I actually do it instead of how you "should" do it.

Put it in the 250 oven for 15 minutes.  Every 15 minutes for 45 minutes take them out and stir them and then re-smooth them out on the pan.

After 45 minutes get impatient and turn the heat up to 325.  Check them and stir them every 5 minutes for 10 minutes.  :)  They should be done.  They will look a little wet and much browner.  They will finish drying and cooking on the plate.  You should make this once or twice with a little experimenting with the time to find the bacon texture and doneness you like best.  We like it crispy without any carbon flavor.  

After they cool they are perfect little strips of bacon flavored goodness.  We like them on baked potatoes, potato salad, green salad, vegan BLTs... whatever you can think of.  

I have no idea how long these keep, we never manage to find out.  Do not store in the fridge, after they cool put them in an air tight container and keep in a dark cabinet.  Any "meaty" mushroom works, I have yet to try them with portobellos but plan to try.  The chemical composition of these dense top mushrooms is amazing and the enzyme that condenses in the dry roasting process is what creates the bacon flavor.  I personally am a mushroom hater but tried these out of desperation for the flavor.  
I was wonderfully amazed.  

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lazy (and cheap) Vegetarian, Menu 1

Ok so I want to share this wonderful experience of moving over to vegetarianism with anyone who is willing to join in.  I have many friends who share recipes and we love to cook.  Wade is a retired chef and I have some skills of my own...  :)  So we hope anyone who is watching will feel like jumping in and trying a few new things.  

First things first.  We are vegetarian, not vegan (sorry folks), we often have cheese, rarely eggs and fish.  We don't ever do liquid dairy.  We use almost entirely vegan ingredients except these obvious exceptions.  You won't get a sneaky non-vegan item but will occasionally get an obvious one.  Instead of trying to share all the recipes we have transformed all at once, I'm posting "menus".  So each time I do this you'll have an entire meal.  :)  We regularly feed 6 or 7 people, so the portions will reflect that.  Feel free to adjust to your own needs.  

We are very well equiped in our kitchen but are currently working fairly low tech as most of our own kitchen is in storage.  :)  This means anyone really following along has some time to invest in good equipment (which you should do anyway) and all this stuff is SO much easier than it sounds.  

Tonight's menu:  Vegan loaded baked potatoes including fresh roasted garlic and shiitake bacon, Asparagus with almond slivers, and Baby seedless watermelon.  Orange juice to drink.

Total cost of dinner: $18

I will post pictures and full instructions later tonight.  :)  Know that along the way you will need to build up some "staple" items and that the cost of each menu does not include these staple items.  Staples are things like olive oil, earth balance, salt etc.  Not things like almonds, saffron or bell peppers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mount St. Helens, 30 years ago

Remember this guys? I was only 6 but it is one of the clearest memories of my childhood.

Mount St. Helens, 30 years ago: "
On May 18th, 1980, thirty years ago today, at 8:32 a.m., the ground shook beneath Mount St. Helens in Washington state as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck, setting off one of the largest landslides in recorded history - the entire north slope of the volcano slid away. As the land moved, it exposed the superheated core of the volcano setting off gigantic explosions and eruptions of steam, ash and rock debris. The blast was heard hundreds of miles away, the pressure wave flattened entire forests, the heat melted glaciers and set off destructive mudflows, and 57 people lost their lives. The erupting ash column shot up 80,000 feet into the atmosphere for over 10 hours, depositing ash across Eastern Washington and 10 other states. Collected here are photos of the volcano and its fateful 1980 eruption. [Editor's note: I lived in Eastern Washington at the time, and have strong memories of this event, the dark skies, the strangeness of it all. I can't believe it's been 30 years. -Alan] (37 photos total)

Ash billows from the crater where the summit of Mount St. Helens had been only hours earlier during a huge eruption on May 18th, 1980. (USGS/Robert Krimmel)

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Mount St Helens - Washington - Eastern Washington - Volcano - 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens"

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

05/03/10 PHD comic: 'Sentences'

Yeah, but we all know they are there... :)

05/03/10 PHD comic: 'Sentences': "

Piled Higher
& Deeper
by Jorge

Click on the title below to read the comic

"Sentences" - originally published

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!


The Secret Science Club presents “The Perfect Swarm” with Biologist Iain Couzin, Tuesday, May 18 @ the Bell House, 8 pm, FREE!

So cool I don't know how to talk about it

The Secret Science Club presents “The Perfect Swarm” with Biologist Iain Couzin, Tuesday, May 18 @ the Bell House, 8 pm, FREE!: "
Dr. Iain Couzin syncs up and goes wild at the Secret Science Club . . .

A predator approaches a school of fish, and—seemingly in one motion—the fish dart to safety. A flock of pigeons wheel over Brooklyn rooftops, their movements orchestrated as if by a conductor’s baton. What’s at the root of these mysterious behaviors?

Biologist and mathematician Iain Couzin of Princeton’s Collective Animal Behavior Lab discusses swarming locusts, marching army ants, and even crowds of bugged-out Homo sapiens. He asks:
--How did collective animal behavior evolve and what are the fundamental principles underlying this behavior?
--What enables groups of animals to move in unison?
--How does individual behavior influence group dynamics?
--Can crowds of species (even humans) undergo dramatic “personality” changes?

Dr. Couzin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Adjunct Faculty in the Program of Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University. He is a member of the Faculty of 1000 Biology and the recipient of a Searle Scholar Award in 2008 and the Mohammed Dahleh Award in 2009.

Before and After

--Groove to synchronized tunes
--Stick around for the 'orderly' Q&A
--Flock don't run to try our cocktail of the night, the Herd Mentality

The “Secret Science Club” meets Tuesday, May 18 at 8 pm @ the Bell House, 149 7th St. (between 2nd and 3rd avenues) in Gowanus, Brooklyn, p: 718.643.6510 Subway: F to 4th Ave; R to 9th St; F or G to Smith/9th

No cover. Just bring your smart self! Please bring ID: 21+ Doors open at 7:15 pm. Limited seating.



Cemetery: "Three headstones down, I got a call from my mom and it went from bad to worse."

I sometimes wish I were cooler...

Ok so this is one of "those" posts.  You know, the ones that tell you all what a geek I really am.  Well I've managed to mess up my knee.  I have a serious sprain (possible tear) of my MCL, the ACL's dumber, lesser known sister.  I am trapped in bed for two days and will have to wear a big, clunky brace for at least two weeks.

And I don't even have a cool story!!  My bike is setting out all ready to be ridden and the doc says if I'm lucky I'll be out on it before the  *end* *of* *June*.  Yeah, my rowing machine is useless, I can't ride the bike, I can't even WALK.  And I don't have a cool story.  The super special bonus?  I get to backslide on my weight loss.  So now you all are going to hear about the stuff I think about when I'm avoiding thinking about things.  It was bound to happen.  I was going to have to open up and actually share one of these days...

So, here is my neurotic question for the evening.  Why would I not get lypo when: A) I know I can maintain without gaining weight as my size has been the same for 7 years, B) I would have instant health benefits to my body, and C) I don't have a low self esteem or some sort of misguided "life changing" mental association with the process?  Aren't all the arguments against it just as superficial as most people's reasons for getting it?  I want better health and a stronger body.  I don't need or expect some sort of sex object status, it's just expensive...

Ok so there it is, as shallow as I get...  enjoy?