Small Streams

Back Again
August 30, 2009, 8:51 pm
Filed under: meta

Just got the darned thing unblocked. Lost the draft about I don’t know what. Anyway I’m virtually in Irwin. You can catch up to my virtual travels there.

August 30, 2009, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My iPhone wordpress app is crashing.

Mark Stroup

The Dispersal of Seed
August 9, 2009, 10:09 am
Filed under: ecology | Tags: , ,

While we were in Massachusetts, Liz picked up a book for me at the Annisquam Seafair. The book, Pittsburgh Regional Economy, seemed a long way from its origins. But I can imagine its sojourn to New England on the fetters of an environmentalist, its dormancy, and the happenstances that led to a planting into my hands.

Paperback, saddlestitched, and typeset with an IBM Executive typewriter, this 38 years-old book would only seem to be classified as ephemeral, what with all the technological developments and the shifting environmental landscape.

Unfortunately, the problems remain the same (air and water pollution, gypsy moths, strip mining, the degradation of bee habitat, ad infinitum) and the public awareness and will has barely changed. If you go back another 30 years you begin to think we’re seriously moving backward.

We entered the war [World War II] with a vast and well-organized collection industry of over 200,000 junkmen withh their horse-drawn carts, push carts, and motorized trucks. By February, 1942, the federal government had
organized the junkmen, gas station personnel (no gas to sell) and the
rest of the civilian population down to the city ward levels with Allegheny County having 5 pick up zones. The whole country went from one pick-up drive to antoher with scrap rubber campaigns being the most numerous. For rubber, tin, and lead there were house-to-drives as well as campaign goals for the nation, the state, county and collection zones. The 1942 June scrap rubber drive achieved its commonwealth goal of 355 tons but not all collection zones achieved their target goal in our area. By 1944, the scrap rubber campaign ended as a result of a reduced demand for rubber goods by the military and the production of adequate synthetics by industry.

From Pittsburgh Regional Ecology, edited by Earl R. Schmidt,
published by Vulcan Press, State College, PA, 1971.

Think of it, a network of 200,000 junkmen, most likely free agents with volumes of embedded knowledge, and myriads of customer and vendor connections. Talk about a distrbuted solution! What if we could make ragman as desirable a position as barista?

Some Reasonable Thoughts
August 8, 2009, 8:35 am
Filed under: community, health, politics | Tags:

The New York Times Opinionator column has a long and edifying post, complete with videoclips about the townhall and healthcare kerfuffle. Aside from the public theatre, which I think might be healthy, you occasionally get someone who has more reasoned thoughts like commenter David D.

The basic fact is that everybody wants to live, nobody wants to pay. Rationing is a fact of life. Health care reform is simply a matter of trying to change people who are currently in charge with a different group of people. Those who are being replaced will fight against change, those who stand to benefit from such change will also try hard to make it happen.
Insurance companies are currently in charge, so they don’t want change. Lawyers are also benefiting from the current health care system, so they want to keep it as is. Specialists who make a lot of money don’t want change. Most primary care doctors bear the brunt of the work, so they want change. Most patients who understand that they are one illness away from bankruptcy want change.

Pollan on Rational Eating
August 2, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: food, health | Tags: , , ,

Michael Pollan’s latest in the NYT Mag covers the rise of cooking shows and decline of cooking. He makes the point that even as we watch more cooking shows, we cook less and eat more.

Those who are enabling this transition, the people of the prepared food industry, have no interest in a return to increased cooking time. In fact, they are only trying to channel military capabilities into a (relative) peace-time economy.

Those corporations have been trying to persuade Americans to let them do the cooking since long before large numbers of women entered the work force. After World War II, the food industry labored mightily to sell American women on all the processed-food wonders it had invented to feed the troops: canned meals, freeze-dried foods, dehydrated potatoes, powdered orange juice and coffee, instant everything. As Laura Shapiro recounts in “Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America,” the food industry strived to “persuade millions of Americans to develop a lasting taste for meals that were a lot like field rations.” The same process of peacetime conversion that industrialized our farming, giving us synthetic fertilizers made from munitions and new pesticides developed from nerve gas, also industrialized our eating.

Pollan spends a good deal of time grousing about television’s portrayal of cooking, particularly The Food Network’s: lots of flash and virtuosity that keeps the viewer watching but uninspired to cook. This is for the most part true, though my kids tend to kitchen adventures after an episode or two of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats.”

It would be better if Pollan dove into a little field reportage, or if he wrote about his own eating and cooking habits. Rather than nagging about the flawed behavior of others, perhaps, like Barbara Kingsolver, Pollan is on the verge of writing about how a food revolution, a revolution where we spend longer growing, cooking, and eating will transform us.

Fun facts found along the way:

Snopes on the egg in the cake mix.