Small Streams


The Beet Beat
July 11, 2010, 7:46 am
Filed under: food, gardening, health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

At the end of the summer, our farm subscription contains bunches of beets. We have occasionally consigned the beets to the compost. A shame, I know. We now have identified beet-eating friends. But I know there are ways to prepare them that even I may like. The New York Times must be trying to make me eat more beets.

For instance, in a story about Copenhagen a restaurant that serves beet-flavored ice cream is mentioned. I can’t find beet-flavored ice cream in the markets, nor would I be willing to try making it myself, but if someone made it for me . . .

Today’s paper also has a recipe for beet salad.

Very pretty. It would, however, only deal with about an eighth of a bunch of beets. So I’d still need learn how to make borscht or find out how to tie-dye. Ooh, that would be cool: a t-shirt with radiating circles around the phrase “Beet Power.”



Let the Debate Begin
November 21, 2009, 4:43 pm
Filed under: business, health, politics | Tags:

According to the New York Times there are enough votes for cloture so the debate on the Senate’s health care bill can begin.

For many, expanding government’s role in health care means a deepening slide into socialism.

But if our health care system can’t compete with other countries’, it means our businesses can’t compete, our manufacturers can’t compete, our retailers can’t compete, and even a number of services can’t compete.

If we forego the chance to reform health care, we might be on the right — but losing — side of an ideological argument. Essentially, countries like China, Japan, and Germany would be creating favorable business conditions and we wouldn’t be, playing a game of monopoly capitalism where we would not be able to participate.



Coming to the Surface
September 20, 2009, 10:04 am
Filed under: health, mind, thinking | Tags: ,

Is it the path to enlightenment or the work of a psychotic? Jung’s Red Book has arrived on the scene. I’m usually bored by Jung, but I like Jungian things. Anyway, I’m quite interested by this.

Some people feel that nobody should read the book, and some feel that everybody should read it. The truth is, nobody really knows. Most of what has been said about the book — what it is, what it means — is the product of guesswork, because from the time it was begun in 1914 in a smallish town in Switzerland, it seems that only about two dozen people have managed to read or even have much of a look at it.



Odorless and Colorless
September 13, 2009, 6:39 am
Filed under: business, ecology, health | Tags: ,

The Times’ reporting on violations of clean water regulations is nothing short of devastating. Clean water is something you take for granted, but the article by Charles Duhigg is a vial of smelling salts to make us think of an issue too easily ignored. The article is a combination of research, moving stories of people victimized by a rigged system, and lots of hand-wringing or silence by politicians and public officials.

In Charleston, West Virginia, the water is unfit to bathe in, let alone to drink.The poor water quality is due — not according to coal companies but anyone with a shred of scientific capacity — to coal companies injecting slurry back in to the ground. State DEPs and the EPA have been hamstrung in their efforts to police bad behavior. According to one regulator . . .

“We were told to take our clean water and clean air cases, put them in a box, and lock it shut. Everyone knew polluters were getting away with murder. But these polluters are some of the biggest campaign contributors in town, so no one really cared if they were dumping poisons into streams.”

So the costs were externalized onto the people of Charleston, who can’t take a shower for fear of getting a rash, or take a drink for fear of losing their teeth or gall bladders.

The problem with enforcing the regulations is that it’s not so apparent that our water is polluted. Toxic chemicals found in tainted water can be invisible. In the ’70s when The Clean Water Act was instituted, the problems were more apparent. Raw sewage made a better target than minuscule quantities of arsenic.

Regulations come with a cost. Fining and restricting coal mining activities will surely raise the price of coal, and therefore of electricity. The average utility user will bear the burden. But it beats having to use bottled water to brush your teeth. Plus, we’ll have the bonus of being awake.



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.



Thank you, Michael Pollan
December 18, 2007, 8:58 am
Filed under: eutechnics, health, language | Tags: , ,

Michael Pollan’s article about the deflation of the word “sustainability” appeared in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

When pesticide makers and genetic engineers cloak themselves in the term, you have to wonder if we haven’t succeeded in defining sustainability down, to paraphrase the late Senator Moynihan, and if it will soon possess all the conceptual force of a word like “natural” or “green” or “nice.”

Pollan follows this with a paragraph about Confucius and how if we’re to repair the world we need first to repair our words. The passage is pretty much lifted whole from Wendell Berry’s “Standing by Words.” I say this as a tribute to both Pollan and Berry. Berry can sound like an oracle at times, so it’s wonderful that Pollan can translate. Soon you’ll find the sentiments expressed in Parade magazine. If it takes 2,500 years to pay attention to Confucius, so be it.



Are We Doomed?
December 16, 2007, 11:38 am
Filed under: health | Tags: , ,

I felt a disturbance in the force  as I read  this article  in the Post-Gazette about the creation of a second Downtown YMCA location. The Y is a venerable institution that  began as a way of making Christians healthy or healthy people Christians. It’s suffered from its downmarket image, and maybe drawn a few snickers due to the Village People song (for the even more snide, check out LWIII’s “The Hardy Boys at the Y”). That our local Ys are renovating and expanding sounds good to me. Muscular Christianity and even Muscular Secularism can make us all look and feel better, but . . .

Given the concentrated population, it “makes sense” to add the location, [John Cardone, executive director of the Downtown YMCA] said. The Y has found that people generally won’t walk more than three blocks to an exercise program.

When I read that I realized why the article made me antsy. You don’t have to walk three blocks to get to exercise, walking is the exercise. Walk an extra 20 blocks a day and you can save yourself a trip to the Y. Now my mind is filled with the image of someone at the Y walking on an electrically powered treadmill and watching CNN under fluorescent lights when they could be taking a walk to the Strip District or the Eliza Furnace trail.