March 31, 2010

Super Recycle Girl

One day about 2 years ago, I loaded up all our recycling materials and pedaled out to the recycle center about 4 miles away. I felt very self-righteous about not driving out there and I felt even more so when I saw an SUV (the second picture, though it's only half in the shot) drive up by me. So I snapped some photos.

I haven't done it since. So much for my self-righteous self.

These are pictures that have been sitting around in my media locker. While I was working on the movies this past month, I went through the media locker and pulled out a bunch of shots that were in storage that I had lost off my hard drive when our computer crashed (during the move). While I was digging around in there I came across these and thought I'd post them.

March 27, 2010

A generation of "environmentalists" who rarely walk (or play) outdoors

"...our young people are more aware of threats to the global environment than they are of the natural world in their own backyards." - David Elkind, in his New York Times article, "Playtime Is Over"

March 21, 2010

Yam Sandwiches

The cafe around the corner from our house in San Francisco makes some yummy sandwiches. One of my favorites has always been the yam sandwich, which I really missed when we moved. So I grabbed a to-go menu one year when we were back in SF and used their description of the sandwich to recreate a version of my own.

I wanted to check the recipe today and though I knew I had posted it here somewhere once (I think it was in the vegetarian group.) I couldn't find it. I finally turned it up on T's site, but I figured it was high time I had a copy of the recipe on my own site. So here it is. (ps: I used T's picture. It rocks and way outdoes any pics I've taken of the sandwich myself.)

* 1 or 2 large yams (depending on how many sandwiches you'll be making)
* toasted baguette (or any other kind of bread. I often use regular slices of whole wheat bread)
* feta cheese (crumbled)
* cilantro (just the leaves)
* tomato (I leave the tomatoes out if they're not in season.)
* red onion
* garlic olive oil (or a garlic oil spread = butter and olive oil in equal measures, a couple of cloves of raw garlic and a sprinkle of salt, blended till smooth)

Lightly oil a cookie sheet with olive oil. Slice the yams (or sweet potatoes). Lengthwise is best in terms of keeping the slices on the sandwich, but medallions are probably easier to cut. As I put them on the cookie sheet I rub one side in the oil, then flip the piece of yam over. That way both sides get oiled. Each piece should be only about a quarter of an inch thick. Put these in the oven for 10 minutes on each side at 350 degrees or until soft enough to run a fork through easily.

You can set the roasted yams aside for later, or put them directly into a sandwich. They don't have to be warm to make a really tasty sandwich, though. So don't be afraid to roast them in advance and add them to a sandwich later, even if they're cold.

To make the sandwich spread the garlic oil on the bread, add slices of yam, cilantro, red onion, feta and tomatoes to taste.

March 20, 2010

Introverts in a Crowd

Adam McHugh posted this in his blog recently and it made me laugh because it fits me so well:

Here’s how I tend to respond when I enter a room full of people I don’t know:
  • I find something to occupy my time – Play with my phone, doodle on paper, read my Kindle (you wonder why I carry this stuff…)
  • I pretend I don’t see people…often I don’t…but I’m likely to pretend just in case.
  • I hide in the lobby until the last possible moment…
  • I find someone I do know and latch on to them…
  • I secretly hope some likable Extrovert will approach me and break the ice… (Really, it’s not that I don’t want to talk, it’s just starting the conversation that’s often difficult.)

I suppose I'd replace the Kindle and cell phone with kids. I'll busy myself with telling them where we should sit or what they should do with their jackets. I'm not really a gadget person. But the rest, yup, that's me. 

Mountains Beyond Mountains

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Author:Tracy Kidder

"We should all be criticizing the excesses of the powerful,
if we can demonstrate so readily that these excesses hurt
the poor and vulnerable."
-- Dr. Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer is apparently well known in medical circles for his work in TB and HIV. But I'd never heard of him before our book club decided to read Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world. We picked the book for two reasons: A great deal of the book is devoted to Haiti - its history and the severe poverty of its people. Given that the earthquake had just taken place when we were choosing books, Haiti was definitely on our minds and we were eager to find out more about what the country had been like before the earthquake hit. But we also leaned toward this book because it reminded us of Greg Mortenson's story, Three Cups of Tea, which we had all appreciated. Farmer, like Mortenson, saw a severe need among a particular people group and he devoted his life toward improving the conditions of those people both directly and through educating others and encouraging them to lend their help as well.

During Farmer's undergraduate studies at Duke in the early 80s, he was keenly interested in current events and at the same time he became intrigued by a branch of Catholicism called liberation theology. [By the way, that's a term that Glenn Beck would probably recommend you run from.] He was particularly impressed by a local Belgian nun who was involved in helping and protecting the rights of migrant Haitian farm workers. She and other "church ladies" as Farmer called them, "were the ones standing up to the growers in their sensible nun shoes. They were the ones schlepping the workers to the clinics or court, translating for them, getting them groceries or driver's licenses." He began to see the disparities between the affluence that surrounded him at the university, and the severe poverty of the migrant workers in the fields not far from Duke.

After meeting the Haitian farm workers, he began to read everything he could find on the country. As Kidder describes it, "To Farmer, Haiti's history seemed, indeed, like The Lord of the Rings, an ongoing story of a great and terrible struggle between the rich and the poor, between good and evil." He first visited the country in 1983, after having graduated from Duke summa cum laude. He spent a year there in which he traveled throughout the country, meeting people, seeing the outrageous results of former American interventions in the country, and being drawn back toward Catholicism -- especially the liberation theology that he had discovered during his college years.

Farmer was accepted into Harvard's medical school but he spent every moment that he could back in Haiti building a medical clinic in Cange, one of the poorest regions of the country. In fact, he often missed classes, making it back to school just in time for exams. But the professors allowed this because Farmer's first hand experience with the medical issues of Haiti often meant that he had more hands on experience than they did.

With the help of a generous donor, Tom White, Farmer's work eventually grew into an international aid organization called Partners in Health, which works largely in Haiti but has branched out into parts of Peru and prisons in Russia. In the 90s, Farmer challenged the WHO's directives regarding dealing with TB in impoverished areas and, through the examples of what had been accomplished by PIH in Haiti and Peru in particular, he was able to convince them to change their policy in order to tackle the drug resistant strains of the illness that the old policy not only wasn't dealing with, but was even strengthening.

Though Mountains Beyond Mountains is a biography of Farmer's life, it is also in large part a discourse on justice. As Tracy Kidder paints a picture of what Haiti was like when Farmer first arrived, and the political upheavals that have taken place over the past few of decades, it becomes very clear that the United States has had a negative impact on the country. The interests of the rich (both in the US and in Haiti) have repeatedly been put ahead of the interests of the poor. And the world, in large part, has mostly ignored the desperate poverty of these people. It was only the Catholic church that refused to turn a blind eye, a fact that was not lost on the people of Haiti. Kidder explains the Haitians take on God's involvement:

How could a just God permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb: "Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe," in literal translation, "God gives but doesn't share." This meant, as Farmer would later explain it, "God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he's not the one who's supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us."

It was likewise clear to Farmer that the problem in Haiti wasn't God, it was people. He explained that "the fact that any sort of religious faith was so disdained at Harvard and so important to the poor -- not just in Haiti but elsewhere, too -- made me even more convinced that faith must be something good." That's certainly not how most people I know balance the value of faith vs. lack of faith, but it's indicative of Farmer's interests and motivations. He stands firmly on the side of the poor: financially, spiritually, and pragmatically.

This is a book that I can easily recommend. Though it deals with medical issues, it doesn't get bogged down in terminology. It's not preachy, and as a reader I never felt like Farmer or Kidder were trying to convince me that their way was right so much as they want to get the message out to people that something should be done, our help is welcome, and here is a very practical way in which one person has made a remarkable difference in the lives of the poor. Kidder says of Farmer and the others in PIH:

Change the world? Of course they could. He really believed this, and he really believed that "a small group of committed individuals" could do it. He liked to say of PIH, "People think we're unrealistic. They don't know we're crazy."

- - - - -

PIH is currently involved in helping Haiti rebuild after the earthquake. If you would like information on what they are doing, or would like to donate, check out

March 19, 2010

Just got back from hearing Joel Salatin speak

Rob and I first heard about Salatin when we read the Omnivore's Dilemma together (a book by Michael Pollan). I was particularly intrigued by him not only because he's a brilliant farmer, but because he's a Christian who takes great care in his job particularly because he realizes he is a steward of God's earth. More often than not, Rob and I have been in the minority in the churches we've been a part of because we make pro-environment decisions (like driving less, eating organic/local, etc). So it's exciting not only to hear about a like-minded Christian, but to find out about one who is an icon in environmental and sustainable circles. Joel Salatin is leading the way in building a sustainable farming model that grows a large variety of food in such a way that it improves the land rather than degrading it.

I've also seen Joel Salatin on Meet the Farmer (segment 1, segment 2, segment 3 -- if you only have time for one, watch the second, but they're all good), and we recently saw him in the movie, Food, Inc. (which I highly recommend). Though Salatin has been writing and getting the word out for awhile now (he's been publishing articles in Mother Earth News for decades now, I believe), it seems that he's recently been hitting the public consciousness and local food movements are eager to follow his example.  That's why The Front Range Permaculture Institute invited Salatin out to speak on Change We Can Eat. They had originally planned to have him speak in a local church, but the response was so large that at the last minute, they secured a room at the Lincoln Center for him to speak. (Though there were still some open seats, there weren't many. This was a pretty significant turn out considering that Fort Collins (the university as well as the public school system) is on spring break and many people are out of town.)

Joel was, as always, eccentric, hilarious, practical and brilliant.  He wasn't shy about sharing his opinions, even when he suspected the crowd might not agree. And he made some really great points about food in America. He says that we've confused sterility with safety. We believe that the answer to pathogens is sterility rather than growing healthy, sound, safe food that is alive and nutrient dense. Many of the laws regulating food growers (in addition to not making a whole lot of sense) are about controlling market access, not about enabling food safety. 

He talked a lot about metabolizing innovations as well as enabling innovation among small farmers, but I couldn't even begin to do justice to all that he said on those topics. He'd love to see a constitutional amendment allowing for Freedom of Food Choice so that people could buy raw milk, or home made (as in, made in the home) baked goods or jams, without it being illegal and without the food producer having to jump through industrial food corporation sized hoops to sell their food items legally. (It's legal to give a friend or neighbor a home made food product.  But it is not legal to sell that same home made food product to that same friend or neighbor.)&nbsp

Things that he talked about that I'd like to do more research on:

1) Right of Private Contract: He says that in America we have the right to make a private contract with another individual without the government butting in, and that through that right of private contract, we should be able to make baked goods that we then sell to end users.  I don't question this so much as I just know absolutely nothing about it. I think it's time I dug a little deeper. 

2) Monsanto: He mentioned that Monsanto is suing Ojibwa Indians in Wisconsin because they're harvesting the same rice that they've been harvesting for centuries. This sounds a lot like the mentions of Monsanto's activities as described in Food, Inc. I was already thinking of doing some more study on Monsanto because a friend of mine has another friend who works at Monsanto, and when we started talking about the movie Food, Inc. on my friend's Facebook page, she jumped in to say basically that Monsanto was above reproach in that matter.  She gave me some links to check out and I haven't had the time. So I'm hoping to dig a bit deeper into the Monsanto mystery and Salatin gave me an additional path to follow on this. 

Though the folks introducing Salatin waxed rather long (It took them at least 30 minutes to introduce the guy.) his talk was well worth attending. I'm glad we made it back from our spring break misadventures in time.

March 16, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day Parade - Fort Collins, CO

They went by right as we arrived.

We've been out of town for the past several years worth of St. Paddy's day parades, so the kids were thrilled to go to this one. We walked down at 10am and missed the first few entries. The kids got bored somewhere around #48, at which point we walked back home.

I mostly focused in on the animals (because I knew the girls would prefer those pictures). But my favorite entry of the entire parade was the Fort Collins Nursery Red Flyer Brigade. Well done!

March 2, 2010

Our first set of foster animals

This is a video of the almost two months that we spent with our first set of foster kittens: Ewok (who didn't last past the first four days), Sunshine and Marshmallow.

Looking back, if we had known what to look for, we would have realized that the fact Ewok needed a bath to clean the poop out of his fur was a sign that he wasn't doing well. But we were completely naive. You'll see Anna giving the poor little guy a bath in the video. I doubt he had an infection, though, as the other two kitties were, and remained, healthy. Both of the girls got choked up as they watched the clips with Ewok in them.

You'll also see Marshmallow attacking a cheese puff. I just want to say, for the record, that I do not condone the feeding of cheese puffs to kitties. One of the girls videotaped the event and I didn't know about it till later. However, despite not supporting such a diet for kitties, it didn't harm her and it really was rather cute, so I included that bit of footage.

The wet kitty is Marshmallow, as mentioned in my post entitled A Fishy Sound.

Sunshine has a teeny bit of white on her chest, but it's hard to see that as she careens past the camera. Trust me, she's well represented in the video even though she doesn't have a cute moment with a cheese puff or a scary moment with a bathtub.

The kitties will go in to the Larimer Humane Society tomorrow morning at 9:30. We're gonna miss them, but we have high hopes that they'll find warm, loving homes quickly.

- - - - -

Music: There are two tracks on the video. Both are by Anna Kashfi. The first is "Buttons and Bows" and the second is "A Safe Place". I downloaded the songs from eMusic. (If you'd like to join eMusic, let me know. I can get free songs for inviting you. I've been with them for a few years now and found some really great music through them.)