Thursday, August 27, 2009

15 in 15

My 15 Favourite books in 15 minutes:
Tom Robbins "Jitterbug Perfume"
Huxley "The Perennial Philosophy"
Huxley "Island"
Bowles "The Sheltering Sky"
Levitt and Dubner "Freakonomics"
Kevin Phillips "American Theocracy"
Daniel Dennet "Darwin's Dangerous Idea"
Pollan "The Botany of Desire"
Pollan "The Omnivore's Dilemna"
Dawkins "The Ancestors Tale"
Adams "The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
Jared Diamond "Collapse"
Brian Greene "The Fabric of the Cosmos"
Faulkner "The Sound and the Fury"
Hemingway "The Sun Also Rises"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In honor of Summer and my favorite American satirist, a qoute: "Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." -- Mark Twain.
I got a Cercis from the woods folks and it is going to make it! My pole beans are climbing the porch and what a great idea that turned out to be. The leaves face out for a full on foliage extravaganza, while the flowers (and, of course, the subsequent beans) are at waist height for easy picking. the heirlooms all worked out, even the eggplant (in pots), and I have fennel umbels as large as my head and at eye level for ease of viewing the orgy of insect activity. It has been cool and wet, prompting one to question the global warming hypothesis, but only if one has a complete lack of understanding of it in the first place. Very few things worthy of note have happened to me personally. Check out Yew Dell if you haven't yet, the link is on the right under suggestions.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Im an arrogant sob

They won't care what you know until they know that you care. I got that as advice today and the more I think about it the more I realize that it is solid and wonderful advice for those of us who are trying to develop an interest in education in this country. I am guilty of frequently reminding people that I'd rather live in a country where the culture already values education and educators as much as entertainment and entertainers but I have been remiss in making people aware of how much I care about America and how willing I am to suffer on her behalf. We can change things folks, we have to.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finally, indoor corn.

If you haven't seen or heard of dot pots yet (OMRI certified seed starting pots) please take some time to check them out this year. I have a brother who also starts his garden seeds inside and he was thoroughly unimpressed with these because the equivalent jiffy pots were so much cheaper. Let me assure you he is very wrong. These pots actually do what they claim, as a result anyone can start sweet corn indoors 14-21 days before they intend to plant. Those of you who would like to try 3-4 different sweet corn varieties this year without cross pollination ruining your efforts, this is precisely the temporal spacing you need and you can still plant all of your varieties on the first day the soil is warm enough! Sowing corn directly has always been recommended (even by experimental gardeners like myself) because of pots constraining root growth. No longer a worry, the roots of eggplant even grow through these pots. I have tomatoes at v3-v4 that have little roots sticking out already. This means I could have started them as much as a week later. That's a week of electricity for grow lights I don't have to pay for.
You can all help tell this company we appreciate their incredible invention by purchasing a few for yourselves for next year. Spread the word. Happy spring everyone. My Hyacinth/viola/tulip purple-white bed is a real stunner. Sometimes I have some pretty good ideas. The lady laughed at me when I bought her last purple pansies in December and she gave me a huge discount. A little mulch and a southern exposure and they overwinter like bulbs and what a display of color. Anyway, I hope you are all well and gardening your butts off.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kevin Hollis wins the Good Enough to Eat prize for this lifelong saga:

He met his wife because she saw that corn in the graduate co-op garden and asked him what his secret was. He missed the birth of his son because he insisted that there was one perfect day to plant this family "heirloom". He wouldn't be one of those pacing types anyway. His daughter had been married in their backyard and he was certain it was pollen from this corn that made her new in-laws sneeze throughout the ceremony. Only appropriate then, he thought, when he gasped for his last breathe staring up at the sky between those emerald leaves.

Those of my friends who have not gone to should go there now!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Environmental Decoherence

"Once environmental decoherence blurs a wavefunction, the exotic nature of quantum probabilities melts into the more familiar* probabilities of day-to-day life." -- Brian Greene
* (familiar to some of us I would say, but a mystery to all those who date, play the lottery, or tithe.)
I highly recommend The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos to all of you struggling to understand quantum physics and "apply it" to your daily lives. Brian Greene is a very talented author. I thought I was up to date and appropriately confused about the realm of electrons and photons but now I know I needed a refresher, and his is the best.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A cure for seasonal affective disorder

Those of you reading this in the southern hemisphere can still empathize I suspect. When the days are getting longer and the vernal equinox is nearing I always have this thought: Why don't we celebrate the Vernal Equinox? For that matter, why not make both the vernal and autumnal equinoxes national holidays? I have trouble with the holidays we have now, 50% of them seem geared to make us uberconsumers, and the other 50 have meaning to only a select few. Why not institute a holiday that has planet wide implications and meaning for everyone. Dionysian revelry late at night with friends and strangers would be appropriate for the vernal and the autumnal could be centered around home an hearth. All kinds of possibilities are inherent in such a celebration because it is inherently natural for us to be excited about the change of seasons. As an avid gardener, I am always chomping at the bit this time of year when the days are approaching 11 hrs long and moving towards twelve. Why not dance the night away this march 19th wherever you are, stay up late and greet the sunrise knowing that it marks the transition of a remarkable event you may only witness another 50 or so times before you die? Any takers?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Religious Fanatacism

Even if we bend over backwards to concede that scientific truth is no more than that which enables you to pilot your way reliably, safely and predictably around the real universe, it is in exactly this sense that – at the very least – evolution is true. Evolutionary theory pilots us around biology reliably and predictively, with a detailed and unblemished success that rivals anything in science. -- Richard Dawkins
I could not have said it better, and I know because I've tried. I'd like all of you who have ever said "it's just a theory" to read this quote seventeen times and then say a Hail Mary.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Porcine equality

Pig, its whats for dinner. Not quite the same ring really. However, pork is much consumed all over the world and the United States and Britain are leaders in pork consumption. I have always liked pigs, both their inquisitive natures and their funny language of grunts and squeals. Now there is a real push to farm pigs and not pork. I like the idea of raising pigs in an environment that mimics, as far as possible, their natural ecological niche. I remember all too well the overcrowding, torn up, treeless, stretches where we raised pigs when I was young. Free range pigs aren't likely to be worth the immense trouble of prohibiting their wanderlust from overwhelming their appreciation of home sweet home, but we have all heard that pigs are smarter than dogs (scientists have even found that pigs have regio-specific dialects). Why not try the collar shock buried electric fence thing that has so many lab owners jumping for joy? I think it will happen sooner than you think, but only if you are willing to pay a premium for humanely and sustainably raised pork chops and hams. Americans spend a far lower percentage of their annual income on food than citizens of other developed nations, particularly those in the EU. Isn't it cool to imagine that this will change over the next ten or fifteen years? It would solve many more problems than it would create. DON"T SHOP FOR GROCERIES AT WAL-MART.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Trains of ideation

"If...we wish our trains of ideation and volition to be copious and varied and effective, we must form the habit of freeing them from the inhibitive influence of reflection upon them, of egoistic preoccupation about their results."
-William James, from "The Gospel of Relaxation."
The Correspondence theory of truth tells of a relation between representations and objective states of affairs, and James was a fan to say the least. My argument against this particular line (in the context of the text it is taken from) is mystical and not remotely pragmatic. I don't want that to seem a qualifier or a cop out, I disagree with Kant and most of the "penny for your thoughts" philosophical snake oil salesman who rode his coattails in attempts to be darlings of pretentious and debauched drawing rooms at the turn of the 20th.
Inhibitive influence of reflection upon them (our trains of ideation and volition)? We are essentially the psychological offspring of those who raised us through the formative years 1-5 and as such; applying the benefits of hindsight to what we will here call our volitionary reaction mechanisms is necessary to free ourselves in any sense from the hang-ups and tortures wrought by the abuses in their pasts and our own. In order to effectively accomplish this without leaving emotional callouses or even gaping psychic wounds we MUST reflect upon the causes and nature of our thoughts habitually. We must follow them down myriad paths and explore a variety of applications in order to gain some skill and diminish some temerity that is in a real sense hard-wired into our philosophies by physiology. This applies to Memes in all forms, sexual, artistic, philosophical, and other. We are, I think, past the point where leaving the Eastern modes out of our explorations of conciousness (mystic and other) can be argued to be beneficial.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"For years our efforts to address the climate crisis have been undermined by the idea that we must chose between our planet and our way of life, between our moral duty and economic well-being these are false choices," Gore told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
While he is heavily invested in the green tech sector, Gore has a point here that we would be wrong to dismiss due to his thoroughly compromised impartiality. The Republican led surge to obfuscate the scientific perspective on the impending peril was equally devoid of impartiality as a result of the coal and oil lobbies. Lest we forget, bush dismissed the science or actively subverted the findings of the scientists for 8 years. Are we to conclude from these two divergent and equally corrupted political viewpoints that we as "the people" will have to make the necessary changes ourselves? I certainly hope so.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Foxy Foxes

Last night in the quite benign, newly fallen snow, I found some welcome tranquility. I walked a mile or two down the road and then came back through the woods to the house. When I had gotten near to the fence and was about to crawl under I heard a fox. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the sound should try and find a recording online. It is distinct and somewhat disturbing but it is very nice to hear them as you almost never see them while walking and it is not at all the same to see them from the car. So I heard a fox off to my right and several hundred yards away and then to my astonishment another one ran towards the call from his spot about 10 yards away from me. It seemed to me that I was beneath his notice. That was a great feeling.
I wonder if we could stop global climate change by playing "Soave si il vento" from Cossi Fan Tutte really loud near the poles for a long time. I doubt it, but if you want to pay me I'd be willing to take on the comission.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Division of Labour -
I cannot possibly link to all the info you would need to read in order to keep up with me in this blog but that article by Jared Diamond is a good place to start. It would also behoove each of you to read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. These blog topics always begin with an idea for me and then that idea continues to snowball as my internal focus leads me to discover that idea represented in myriad forms all around me for days on end. (It seems coincidental but is, actually, because of my obsession that my perspective is colored, a conversation for another day.)
That said, what I'd like to address is the "division of labor" problem that has been possessing me for a while now. I read a paper the other day by some old friends of mine that infuriated me not because of content, but as a result of omission. They are, I assure you, very intelligent people. However, they are responsible to a system that in order to keep functioning must grow, and in order to grow must attract interest in the form of investment. That system is a University. As a consequence they often fall into the trap of believing what they put in their grant proposals in order to get the funding they need to keep up the good work, keep fighting the good fight. It caused me to question how much of the reductionist science I read in graduate school was incentive based. When it involves crop research it involves food and where it involves food it inevitably affects an industry built up around tricking people into choosing their product. Thats the problem with the division of labor(D of L). It is an invention of society that induces development of a self-reinforcing (positive) feed back loop.
Have you ever considered your refrigerator? What did we do before we had them? Well that was so long ago they probably didn't even have civilization then right? Your grandparents (if they remain alive today (if not my condolences)) can remember a time when refrigerators where ACTUALLY ICEBOXES. They called them that because there was ice in them. A nice "iceman" drove around with ice in his truck and dropped it off at your house, just as the milkman once delivered milk, fresh from the utter. Now what does this have to do with D of L? Its all about incentive. Electric producing companies at that time had a monopoly on light production but that was about it. Producing and distributing electricity was expensive and these companies needed to sell more of their product to more and more consumers to maintain and build their infrastructure. The Electric Icebox is based on compressor technology developed by a guy who wanted to cool textile factory floors so people could work the machines for longer hours (not about their comfort but the machines' capabilities, this is still well prior to labour unions). Did anyone think about the ramifications of this new technology? Sure, the electric companies did. On both the manufacturing and consuming ends, it allowed for a massive new work force to be employed, further diversifying the types and increasing the numbers of jobs available to people who were now spending less and less time finding, preparing, and eating food.
I want you to stop eating processed food but I don't want Campbell's and Kraft to become victims of a change in consumer demand for their product and a weakening economy, because they employ people with children who would probably steal my food and eat it if they did not have their own. They are not going to grow it, to my knowledge they still haven't genetically engineered a Dorito tree. Im sure thats in the offing but we may have to wait a few years. Scientists are trying to stave off disaster from Climate Change by creating another extension of an incentive driven, D of L reinforcing, growth stimulating industrial process. The trick is to grow your own food and eat it, live in a house you built, and use energy you supply to yourself for free. If it seems tough, well, thats because it is.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Soup, its whats for dinner.

Heipa folks, I thought in the spirit of resolutions so pervasive this time of year I would try something different in terms of blogging. I made some soup yesterday. It was something approaching the epitome of comfort food. What follows is something of a recipe and something of a story, I hope you enjoy the story. I know you'll enjoy the soup.
So we start with a pan for frying 1lbs of Italian sausage. I grow my own herbs and spices and have access to home grown/raised sausage as well. For those less motivated, or those with less spare time on their hands, and that is most of you, Jimmie Deans Italian sausage would work just as well. Fry that up and try for large clumps and not crumbles. Don't drain the fat, I even added a tblspn of olive oil to facilitate browning. Once that's done, pour some chicken stock into a soup pan on low heat and add the sausage. To the pan with the seasoning and fat from the sausage you just fried add some onions and garlic. I used a whole onion and a whole clove of garlic from the garden, coarsely chopped, but you could buy them at the farmers market or grocery store and slice them or dice them if you'd rather. Just remember to bring your own bag while shopping. Now, once the onion is transparent, circa 3 minutes, put that in the soup pot and bring the heat to med hi. Add to the pot some red and black pepper to taste and 1qt of heavy whipping cream. Add some (6) red potatoes skin on and some (2) russett pottoes skin off. Add some Kale, I used an entire bunch but you can add as much as you want. It will take 25 minutes for the kale and potatoes to cook on a gentle simmer or low boil so adjust heat of your stove accordingly. To serve; pour into bowls and slice an artisan bread, Rosemarry Focaccia, or Pane Toscana, or whatever you like. The bread should be sliced thinly more for soaking up soup than filling up stomach. This meal is really easy and it will shock you how easy it is to make something so tasty in your own kitchen. When you eat this soup remember me with fondness, warmth, and regards. From my kitchen to yours, PEACE.